“Dammit, I did it again,” I thought, looking up from my iPhone. "I’ll just pop into Facebook for five minutes and see what the rest of the world is up to." One hour, ten sad news stories and fifty political rants later, my brain was mush.
Call it a guilty pleasure, an addiction, a necessity or a distraction, it’s easy to get sucked into the mind-numbing scroll of our mobile devices. Life was much simpler when we didn’t have to worry about checking 5 different social feeds for the fear of missing out. Or letting the world know where we are, who we’re with, what we’re eating and what color undergarments we’re wearing. Welcome to the age of oversharing, jump on board, this train left the tracks when Myspace Top 8 was still a thing.
Disconnecting is one of the things that drives me outside every chance I get. It’s a perfect excuse to bury my phone deep down in a backpack, on silent, forgotten for the day, with no regret and feeling fully liberated. I think they call it “living in the moment.”
WAY BACK WHEN...
Those of us old enough to remember life before smartphones have childhood memories of tree forts, water balloon wars and “Manhunt,” the way cooler version of hide-and-seek.
Our moms would make us go outside. We would fall down, get filthy dirty, drink out of the water hose and climb trees all the way to the top.
We had imaginations and we knew how to use them. We were mermaids with superpowers. Treasure-hunting, peg-legged pirates firing cannonballs at giant sea creatures. Sometimes we were stunt-busting Evel Knievels, which typically did not play out in our favor.
THE WAY I SEE IT
Today, kids stay glued to a screen rather than casting a line or riding a bike. Playing outside is replaced by playing video games. “Tag” happens in photos instead of the backyard. “Check yes or no” has become “Swipe left or right.”
Our lives are connected at the touch of a finger. Access to a worldwide audience lies in the palm of your hand. Infinite information is available at your fingertips. A child today has more technological power than the president did a decade ago. It’s mind-blowing.
Yet, as with any blessing, there comes a curse. Zombies. Wide-eyed, fully consumed by the world in their phones and oblivious to the physical world around them. Not speaking to each other, only typing words. Replacing human interactions with “likes” and “comments” and “swipes.”
Some blame the Millennials or Gen Z, but in reality, we’re all infected… I mean affected.
IGNITING THE SENSES
Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube, Periscope, you name it. These invaluable tools have made it commonplace to observe the world through the eyes of another. To see and hear an experience the way someone else packages it.
However, there are some senses that just can’t be transmitted through a screen. Yet, anyway.
All the photos of the deep blue sea will never beat the rush of diving in and tasting the salt. All the user-generated content in the world wide web can’t replace what it’s like to breathe in the intoxicating smell of a campfire, to feel the adrenaline of landing a big catch or to anticipate the fleeting phenomenon of the green flash.
There’s an incomparable freeness in getting outside and experiencing real, tangible life. The kind where every sense is engaged, arousing you into a state of aliveness. This is what we live for. This is the passion we strive to pass on and share with others.
Some of my most treasured feelings are the ones I return to over and over again, never experiencing them twice in the same way.
The deafening silence just before sunrise as I prepare for pursuit, filled with determination and knowingness of impending victory. Anticipation during the journey, running the scenarios of possibility through my mind. Will this be the day I go on to tell stories about?
My heart pounding fast and strong against my rib cage the moment the action turns on. Eyes wide, mouth open, going through the motions that have been ingrained into my nervous system. The excitement when my hard work and practice produces victory. Or the disappointment of defeat. There are two types of defeat… the kind that generates a firestorm of curse words. Or the kind that leaves you speechless. I’ll let you decide which one is worse.
That euphoric moment, coming onto plane, the wind drowning out every sound around me except the roaring motors. I scan the horizon, envisioning in my mind how this perfect day will go. Inhaling the intoxicating ocean air, I close my eyes and a smile spreads across my face. In my mind, I say a prayer, overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude and because I know… this must be what Heaven feels like.
EMBRACE THE FUTURE. LIGHT THE FIRE.
The outdoors is a wild world, unique and special to each of us. We experience it in a way that is all our own. We seek the thrills that light the fire inside us. We chase the feelings that make us feel truly ALIVE.
Undoubtedly, we all fall into the habit of constant connection now and again. Yet, that will never take the place of getting outside and making life happen.
I refuse to believe that future generations may never know these feelings. It’s just a matter of awareness and choice. And perhaps a few passionate people to help ignite the spark within.
Put down the internet and get outside.