Being Present in the Information Age


Last week, I spent a day at what is arguably one of the most amazing beaches in the world. Cuan went surfing whilst I sat on the warm sand and watched the waves rhythmically swell and burst into parallel ribbons of bright white foam. The sky was a vibrant shade of blue, and the only person in my line of sight was my husband, who was but a small, buoyant dot amidst the beautiful chaos of the ocean. It was pretty much the perfect moment. Or at least, it would’ve been, if it weren’t for the fact that I kept thinking, “I need to take a photo”, and then remembering that I’d left my phone in the car. I even caught myself trying to reduce the moment to a snappy Facebook caption that would accompany the picture that I kept feeling the nagging urge to take.

I walked to the water and let it lap around my ankles. As I stared out at the vastness before me, I felt somewhat disappointed in myself. I’d been so concerned with preserving and showcasing the moment that I had, to some degree, failed to experience it. I wasn’t truly there – I was in some parallel, digital universe made up of pixels and hashtags and “like” buttons. I was in the matrix, which feels looks and feels authentic, but in reality is just a bunch of meaningless ones and zeros.

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. It enables me to communicate with my family (who live 6500 miles away). It provides me with a creative outlet. It gives me access to more information than I could ever hope to learn. But despite all that, I can’t help but question the extent to which technology truly enhances our human experience. I’ll admit that I wouldn’t be very happy at the thought of giving up my iPhone, laptop and Internet access. But is that because these things actually benefit my life in a true and meaningful way, or is it just because I’m an addict?

I don’t want to view the world through camera lenses and Instagram filters. I don’t want to live as though today is already yesterday. I don’t want to be so concerned with how I’ll experience this moment tomorrow that I fail to experience it now. Tomorrow will bring moments of its own.

I did eventually take some pictures (photography does has some soul-soothing benefits, after all), but not before taking a considerable amount of time to just be. There’s something incredibly freeing about basking in the beauty of your surroundings with no further agenda. I’m going to try and make it a habit.

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