Are we driven to distraction, or do we willing hop in and go for a ride?

Some days, no matter how focused I am, there are things that get in the way. Things that aren’t my fault. Sometimes I wish we just didn’t have so much wonderful technology filling up our lives.

Yes, we’ve had video games around for quite some time, and many hours have been lost to these amazing worlds that just keep getting more realistic all the time. And while I do love me some Tomb Raider, and was pretty good with it back in the day, I am really not a big gamer.

I am more of a geek, and love to research all sorts of things that interest me. Obviously the internet has always been a very, very dangerous place for me. Given enough time, I can sit for hours going from subject to subject without any thoughts to what I really should be doing in the real world. Now, with the introduction of wonderful websites like Face Book, Pinterest and StumbleUpon, spending time online can become a very obsessive experience.

And what about all these toys we have now? Seems like everything has a voice these days, with cell phones making all sorts of sounds to ring, reminding you that you have a text, along with regular phones that ring, well – regularly, and e-mails that excitedly tell you “You’ve got mail!”

Face Book has a ‘real time’ chat feature, and you can chat with any number of people who are logged in at the same time. Sometimes it gets a little out of hand. I have been chatting with people on Face Book, while going through my emails, when suddenly someone will start a texting conversation on my phone. It gets a little crazy, with everything begging for your attention. And that’s when you realize that something’s gotta give.

Can everything just be quiet for a minute?! It’s getting harder and harder to focus on anything with all this cacophony going on. I sit down with my best intentions and eventually find myself sidetracked by something beeping or buzzing at me for some attention.

People seem to have allowed technology to rule their lives instead of making their lives easier and simpler. I generally keep my phone on vibrate or silent purposely, so that I don’t jump to answer it every time it makes a noise. I don’t want to be a slave to my phone.

People have told me, “You never answer your phone.” Well yes and no. I answer if it’s convenient. After all, the phone has an answering system in place to take care of the messages, and since I check my phone fairly often, there’s a good chance I will respond in just a few minutes. However, just because I can be reached 24/7/365 with my cell phone doesn’t mean that I will be taking the calls that way.

You see, I believe that technology was created for a lot of reasons, but one of them is not to make me so ‘plugged in’ that I can’t enjoy the reality I’m in at the moment. Seems a lot of people would rather be slaves to all this magic, and I don’t believe that’s how it was intended to be.

But it begs the question. Are we slaves to it, or is it a modern pacifier? When the reality of life is boring, or there’s work to do, or on the opposite end of the scale – when life is too much to deal with, do we turn to these ‘toys’ to make it easier to ignore the work in front of us? We have to be careful. These things make it very easy to run away, to get lost within and totally ignore the things we need to be addressing.

Of course, they have their place. When the twin towers went down on 9/11, the reality of it hit me so hard I played a game called Rat Poker on my computer every night for hours, for weeks on end. I was deeply concerned that we would go to war and it would still be going on when my then 10-year-old son was old enough to be a soldier. And I was right. He is almost 21 now, and we are still fighting. I don’t remember how many nights I played that game, but I remember being surprised one night when I completed the game and there were no more levels. It made me realize how lost I had been, and that it was time to deal with reality and move on.

The irony of it all is that our problems don’t go away when we ignore them. They stay there and quietly wait for us. The only way problems go away is when they are confronted. You have to walk right up to them and stare them in the face, or they will wait for you forever. Most of us don’t bother to address the pain of it unless we are forced to, myself included. Sometimes you can’t escape, no matter how much you try to put something, anything, between you and the problem. But that’s another column, another week.

Ready for some more homework? Unplug this week. Turn it all off. Take a Face Book sabbatical. Instead of checking to see how your friends are doing with technology, get together with them for some face time. Have a meal with them, go for a walk with them, create something with them. Have a real experience, and make real memories, because nothing, no technology can ever replace the beautiful realness of reality.

The Desiderata was right on. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, the world is still a beautiful place. We just need to put the remote, cell, mouse, or controller down, and enjoy it.

Originally published June 1, 2012

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