It amazes me how all of the things we use to stay connected have actually disconnected us from real life. We walk down the street with our noses in our phones and drown out the sounds of real life with playlists, podcasts and other distractions.
We set boundaries and attempt to live private lives while passing people who have stories, histories and lessons with which we’ll never be acquainted. We’d rather scroll through news feeds and timelines than pay attention to nature, architecture or anything real.
I’ve seen entire tables of eight or more people at bars or brunches with lit up faces, thanks to cell phone glows; an entire crew staring at their feeds and texts in unison, completely detached from reality.
There’s a phrase I’ve heard throughout many phases of life, from high school to college and the years thereafter: “Look up.” It's just two words, but they're loaded with meaning. In every stage of my life, this phrase has meant something different.
A few weeks ago, I heard these words again. I had just moved to the Bay Area after seven and a half months in Southern California. I’d hardly begun to navigate my way through the metropolis of Los Angeles when it was time for another change.
Although I’d dreamt of moving to San Francisco for a long time, I found myself ambivalent.
I was caught between hating my new climate and appreciating the opportunity to be in a city with more “real” people. I was missing the privacy of a house and a yard that I had enjoyed in my perpetual LA summer, but I finally had a real job and my own bedroom.
San Francisco has so much to offer — mountains, the ocean, Victorian architecture — and I wasn’t appreciating any of it. In the solipsism of my own head, I was failing to be grateful for anything around me. You don’t need to have a phone in your hands to miss out on socialization and scenery.
I promised myself to spend my time in the Bay paying attention to my surroundings without imagining them through a viewfinder or filter. The best cultural experiences I’ve had have been when I had no cell service and no reason to open my phone.
Amazingly, the more you live in the moment, the less the time becomes relevant.
Traveling can teach you a lot about boundaries; it makes you realize how easy it can be to feel lonely in a huge city if you don’t exert yourself to mesh into your surroundings.
It also makes you realize just how much Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not real life.
Disconnecting from a data plan is liberating and beautiful; it’ll leave you with clearer eyes and more focused memories when you step out of social media's shadow.
You don’t need to travel to reconnect with the real world, however. All it takes is effort and self-control to put your smartphone away while you’re walking around town, sitting on the bus or attending a party.
By doing so, you will also notice so much more about your town, city and neighborhood -- just remove your ear buds and put away your phone.
Make eye contact. Focus on your surroundings; notice buildings, trees, birds and the clouds. Take a deep breath and appreciate the beauty of sunrises, sunsets, storms and stars. The world is beautiful, and it doesn’t need a filter.
All you have to do is look up.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It