Stop to smell the roses (and not just Instagram them)

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Saw this pasted at the entrance of My Elephant (new favourite place, SUCH good Thai food) and just had to take a photo of it and social media it all over the place of course (the irony does not escape me).

But yes, I’ve also been coming across a lot of writing about the need to slow down, quiet our minds, reconnect with a world beyond an electronic screen. (yes, online, picked up on Facebook—I know, I know about the irony).

That thing about how convenient it is to always be connected is, well, just not. There’s a price to pay for this damned “convenience”—an erosion of personal space and time, privacy, the clarity of being rooted in a real world over a digital one, the simple enjoyment of talking to each other over dinner (folks at My Elephant got it right).

I find that I’m rather disliking what I am now calling an over-availability of wifi. In the remotest little village in China, on the farthest little island off whatever-ever coast of Borneo, in the middle of the goddamn air as you’re in a plane, there it is: connectivity, that dismaying ‘online’ signal on your phone that means the whole world can descend upon you at any time.

Now there’s never any real reason not to answer pesky emails or to reply someone’s “urgent urgent!” Facebook message. Now, we’re just always available, all day, every day, arms wide open, with a big placard over our heads saying, “I’m here for youuuuuu”.

The lyrics in James Taylor’s You’ve got a friend  (“You just call out my name / And you know wherever I am / I’ll come running to see you again”) has never rung as true as it does now in the digital age—you really are just always there for the taking, for everyone, for every moment of your sleeping, waking day. How sweet and peaceful it must’ve been back in James’ day, when messages were delivered by a real live postman and nobody could get you on the phone if you weren’t at home.

Because of this ever-ever over-availability, things also necessarily speed up to ten times the speed they need to. You have to reply this email, right now, even as you’re stand in the middle of a crowded train / out for a run / making dinner. You need to tell everyone where you’re going, what you’re doing, how you’re getting there quick quick on the double double through your Facebook status / on a tweet / with an Instagram real-time capture of your surroundings.

But heck, can we stop just for a little while to remember that way back in the old ages when there wasn’t any of this, people still got through the day fine, families and friends and individuals the world over were still happy,  things still rocked and rolled.

We survived and have came a long way through many centuries without wifi.

Entire movements have changed the world, crusades and wars have been fought, enormous multi-million dollar businesses have flourished, billions of families raised, lived and died—all without wifi.

And so, this is a little call, in the midst of a world that over-indulges in its technology, to slow down and really stop the smell the roses instead of just twicpic-ing it.

Now, my 8-point request:

1. Bear with me if I don’t answer your text message the instant it drops into my phone (because I may well be in the theatre watching real people do real beautiful things).

2. Allow me to not reply my emails over the weekend.

3. Don’t make me feel guilty for sitting through an entire mealtime without checking my email.

4. Don’t be surprised if I decide to turn my phone off by 9pm (and not sleep with it next to my head).

5. Indulge me if I want to talk with you in person, with my mouth, my face and my hands waving about the air.

6. When I’m on holiday, please don’t try to contact me through anything but a pigeon.

7. Unless it’s a matter of life & death, or Tobey Maguire is standing at my front door, please respect my wish to sleep uninterrupted by any sort of artificial noise (especially the beeping, ringing kind).

8. If you’d like to really indulge me, write me a letter sometime, with a pen, some paper, an envelope and stamps, delivered by a living, breathing, postman.

(9. An extra: If you really must still spend time online, may it be on this here little blog!)

This is not to say that we totally cut ourselves away from all forms of online-communication. It’s about maintaining some sense of control and being able to choose when we want to go into our emails/Facebook walls/Twitter accounts, when we want to ‘receive’ information and messages and noise, and when we want to respond to it (if at all). And to do all that without feeling guilty or pressured or lacking in any way.

It is to be able to go for a delicious meal (at my elephant!) and feel entirely comfortable about leaving your phone in your bag (or at home) and spend the entire two hours of the meal engaged in incredible living, feeling, gesturing, expressing conversation.

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