I got a smartphone last month. It changed my life.
For a year, I barely talked to my boss. She was busy. I was not. Now we are security partners, meaning that we must send each other at least three checkin messages everyday when we are travelling outside of the city. We talk all the time, through the magic of whatsapp, no matter where we are and our relationship, and therefore my work, has drastically improved.
Team connections have grown and deepened. During the office flood of 2014, we were so busy taking pictures and putting them on our team Whatsapp chat that we almost forget to evacuate.
In meetings, I used to be the only person without an excuse to not pay attention. I always wondered what everyone else was actually doing with their phones. Now I can join in with everyone else in sending important work messages (translate: looking at facebook), networking (translate: sending messages to a colleague across the room about how boring the meeting is) and adding dates into my google calendar (translate: uploading photos to instagram) instead of paying attention.
My own creativity is improving, as I challenge myself to use my phone’s camera to take at least one picture a day that illustrates the beauty of my daily life.
While my new phone does actually help me to do my job, it is still a strange feeling to know that I carry all of the knowledge of the world around with me in my pocket at all times. At MCC retreats, I am usually completely cut off from the world, yet last weekend, I sent pictures to former MCCers so they could know about all the bad coffee they were missing out on by not being present.
Last week, I was in a meeting about our radio show, then drinking coffee at the French bakery, then writing an article, then at the mall and then packing. Throughout the whole time, I kept getting messages: the police have arrived, the army has arrived, we are resisting, we are evicted, we have left, we are formulating our legal defense case. A community we work with was displaced and, besides a facebook post, there was nothing I could do but continue on with the plans of my day. So I did.
I am part of the last Canadian generation that remembers life without internet (and also radio phones and outhouse but that is for another blog). I LOVE the internet, but part of dealing with this technology is figuring out how to manage the disjointed reality that instant connection brings. I am not sure how to do so without getting overly emotionally involved or completely divorced from all empathy.
Like most things in life, the solution probably has to do with balance. Perhaps taking a moment, however brief, to stop and to acknowledge the suffering of others in the same way that I laugh to myself when someone sends me a joke is a possible way to be present to the reality of the world around me without collapsing in despair. An another response may also be to treat the people physically around me with kindness as I continue with my day, in honour of those I cannot be with. I can never use situations somewhere else as an excuse to ignore my present moment.
For all of you who have been in the 21st century for longer that I, any other advice?