Connectivity: Life’s Trivial Pursuit

BY FRANK RUSSO (@ComedyRusso)

“If someone had mentioned ‘staying connected’ meant to everyone else’s problems, I’d have never bought one”

That was just one of many revelations to come from the first annual Reflections On Technology (ROT) conference held in Sudbury, Ontario, this past weekend. Experts, academics, and consumers alike spent three days on a technology-free retreat, where they could re-experience what life was like before cellphones and social media.

“The longer I’m away from it, the less it makes sense,” explains Shane Newbert, Program Developer at You-slessApp. “I have Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Outlook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts. Obviously I don’t have time for all of these, so I have an app update them for me. But if I don’t have time to enjoy them, why do I care about updating them? That’s like buying gas for a car you already sold, it doesn’t make sense”

With the rapid advancement of technology and social media, the ROT retreat provides an opportunity for participants to take a step back from what can often feel like a social chore. Robyn Lemay, a marine biologist from Regina, shared how the retreat affected her.

“You don’t realize the happiest days of your life are happening simultaneously as the worst day of someone else’s, until you buy a cellphone.” Explained Mrs. Lemay. “I can’t count how many times I’ve been having fun only to have it interrupted by some depressing message. Ignorance really was bliss.”

[pullquote]The internet’s kind of like a series of cults.[/pullquote]

Micheal Peterson, a pool salesman from Winnipeg, found similar revelations about social media.

“Facebook makes no sense,” claims Mr. Peterson “I have 400 friends telling me their opinions, yet the same five people show up to my birthday every year. And now to prevent hurting someone’s feelings I can ‘unfollow’ instead of unfriending them? This must be the evolution of ‘everyone wins a trophy’ thinking.”

Students from the local university were also invited to the retreat, as many undergrads are the first generational by-products to be immersed in technology since childhood. Philosophy major Meghan Gagnon shared her reflections with us.

“The internet’s kind of like a series of cults,” explains Meghan. “I once did a research paper on Libertarians, now every time I go on YouTube it suggests white supremacy videos as something I’d like. It promotes ignorance by taking topics you had previously researched, then produces like-minded links and websites in future search results, furthering you down the rabbit hole. It’s the intellectual equivalent of eating your own shit.”

When asked how it felt to take time away from social media and digital communication, Meghan paused before giving a particularly insightful response.

“First it was weird, then it was kind of nice being left alone to actually experience what was going on around me. Instead of being sucked into social debates and trends, I was able to analyze how I feel and why.”

And what great epiphany did Meghan discover?

“A serious discussion about naked selfies needs to happen. I’m not saying attach it to your resume, but there’s a whole generation in big trouble if we can’t proudly stand together and say ‘dick pic, meh.’”

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