Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted a couple of articles relating to our usage, and in many cases dependence, upon technology, particular when it comes to social media. One piece looked at how cliché we’ve become in the pictures we post and the other at how staged and artificially ‘cool’ so many of us regularly try to make our lives seem.
According to the Pew Research Center, 65% of American adults use social networking websites, a number that has risen steadily from 7% in 2005 when their research began. The digital pandemic has become so severe that it is almost more common to see a person looking at their phone as you pass them by on the street than it is to actually make eye contact or share a smile with them.
To further portray how significant this physical disconnect has become, photographer Eric Pickersgill has released a series of photos from everyday life with one minor adjustment: all electronic devices have been removed.
The project, which he has titled Removed, was inspired and initiated by an observation he made one morning while sitting in a local café:
Family sitting next to me at Illium café in Troy, NY is so disconnected from one another. Not much talking. Father and two daughters have their own phones out. Mom doesn’t have one or chooses to leave it put away. She stares out the window, sad and alone in the company of her closest family. Dad looks up every so often to announce some obscure piece of info he found online. Twice he goes on about a large fish that was caught. No one replies. I am saddened by the use of technology for interaction in exchange for not interacting. This has never happened before and I doubt we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience. Mom has her phone out now.
I’m sure we can all observe something similar to this quite easily in the world today, if not unknowingly participate in it ourselves. Here are some of the photos that Eric has posted on his website:
Whether or not you are a part of the technology-obsessed majority, there is certainly something to be learned from this series of photos. For those of us who are a part of the problem, it’s a reminder to be conscious of our electronic usage and dependence. Monitor how much time you spend digitally connected and make a conscious effort to slowly replace it with physical presence.
An easy way to initiate this is to make it into an experiment. Start by challenging yourself to spend at least 30 minutes of every day completely away from technology. Talk a walk, prepare a meal, read a book, or talk with a friend — anything to refresh yourself on how invigorating life can be without digital distractions.
For those who already spend a substantial portion of their day away from technology, let these photos further enforce this healthy habit within you. Be the one who stays present in the moment and challenge yourself to remind others how wonderful it can be.