Purpose vs. Pleasure

It’s hard to take a break from technology – specifically related to communication – realize how much it has infiltrated your life, and know your moment of illumination will dim once normalcy resumes.
It’s pessimistic and cynical and depressing but it’s probably true. Putting the phone on airplane mode for a weekend, or even a day, feels great. It reminds me of passing notes between classes or buying calling cards to call girls while stuck in Gustavus on a basketball trip. It reminds me of being home at six, because even if the silvers were biting, I couldn’t call or text for a time extension.
It reminds me of being really alone or with real people.
But what’s the point of intentionally neglecting modern convenience? Is it just a nod to an archaic form of living? Is it a refreshing glass of emotional ice tea in an otherwise scalding, suffocating, but inescapable world run by screens and WiFi?
I’m not going to trade my truck for a horse because I’m nostalgic. Well, I never did own a horse, so maybe that’s a bad example, but the principle works.
Why not use technology? If it’s not money, but the love of money that is the root of all evil, can we apply this to technology too?
The technological revolution has happened so fast we have no choice but to be reactionary especially when it comes to the consequences.
We’re replacing interactions with things lacking substance. Nuance in interaction is being substituted with emojis. Little yellow faces can’t replace spoken words, or what it feels like to look into someone’s eyes and tell them what they need to hear or how you feel. We know that, but we look for the out anyway.
The sad thing is these words are just the latest in volumes of words written with the same thesis. It’s semantic Scrabble. Same words, new order. In fact, by the time you’ve read this, someone else has likely contributed another chapter. But clearly nothing is changing. It’s a romantic idea to stay disconnected or to power off, but we end up heading back to our fast electronic world. There’s a certain necessity involved. What’s the first thing I’m going to do when this column appears online? Post it on Facebook and Tweet it. 


At some point life requires us to self-soothe. At some point it requires us to engage in real things, if only for long enough to remind us of what is real.
Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said that people seek pleasure out of boredom or a lack of purpose. That makes sense. Life should not be about simplistic pleasure or gratification. It’s about deriving something from an existence, not just being habitually distracted by a screen or app.
Maybe we’re doomed as a society, but as individuals we are not – as long as we take the time to ignore the invisible wireless signals that put us on the grid. Even if it’s just for a weekend to remind us how communication and relationships used to be done. 

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