Silence is rare. Many nights of the week I find myself sitting legs-up on the couch, laptop nestled in place, sports or news on the TV, and iPhone and Blackberry on the coffee table to my left. I click on links, turn my head whenever the TV program projects a loud voice, and reach for whichever phone emits a notification. It’s a brutal vortex of information technology that is difficult to stay out of more than a decade into the new millennium.
I never used email or the internet until I was forced to in my first year of university. I used to hate watching TV. I only bought one because I got a full-time job working for a television broadcaster. I bought a cell phone because the roommates I lived with at the time got rid of our landline. Now all of the current implements that are conduits for these media command my attention at almost every waking moment.
Because of this barrage of information, I find it hard to be really productive or even hold basic linear thoughts when all these things are within reach. So I often shut them off, pick up a book, put on music, play guitar, go for a run, or even sit in silence. The hilarious irony is that I worked hard and saved money to purchase these gadgets and have all kinds of information at my fingertips. As the fictional, misguided visionary Tyler Durden said, “The things you own end up owning you.”
In my line of work, and living in urban North America, it’s almost impossible to live without them. They’re half status symbols and half knowledge necessities. It’s imperative to know what’s going on and to stay connected in these complex layers of relationships and interactions in the city. That being said, I don’t really need to be playing Angry Birds on the bus or in those few minutes between meetings/appointments.
And that’s where balance comes in. When I talk to my grandparents on the rez and in small-town Ontario (face to face), they’re both mind-blown and vexed that we walk around with computers in our pockets these days. They never needed them, and they still don’t. Because that wholesome attitude still exists, smartphones should be obsolete in the grand scheme of life.
But they aren’t, nor will they ever be. They’ve made my life easier, and I’m not abandoning any of these toys to become a born-again Luddite. The other day a random couple stopped me on the street to ask where a certain restaurant was. I didn’t know, so I pulled out my phone and called up an app – and within seconds I sent them in the right direction. My phone made me a hero for a moment. But silence and balance are golden, and I’ll never forget about the things that challenged and captivated my mind before 21st Century attention defects.
By the way, my favourite apps are Word With Friends, Angry Birds, Twitter, Instagram, and the new CBC News App.