It has been quite some time since I ventured out as a solo traveller. Selfish as it may be, I always felt liberated on adventures from being able to make quick decisions and maintain a schedule for the sole purpose of suiting oneself. For most of my formative years abroad, taking this leap to travel on my own was the most rewarding experience.
Having recently returned to the realm of checking in at reception for just a single, the experience of travel and shared moments has certainly shifted. Before the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share the experience or TripAdvisor, Yelp and Zomato to guide one’s way through a new destination, solo travel really did force one to go it alone. So how then has this got any relevance to the field of educational technology?
On a recent trip to one of Australia’s most glorious spots on the central coast, I became all too aware of the place that technology holds in this recreational realm. I found myself tied to a range of apps that compelled me to share my experience with a world of people that were probably more frustrated than pleased to see me experience a glistening sea lapping upon white sand, whilst they’re mindlessly thumbing through their device on a work break. I found myself becoming the very tech user that I so often deride and malign.
Research tells us that living through our devices, instead of in the very moment, can be detrimental to our mental health (1). Oh the hypocrisy, I thought, as I sought out vistas that were ‘share worthy’ and orchestrated the angle of my pool lounge for best composition. I fortunately had the self-awareness to call myself out on it, but perhaps not the self-control to venture on a hike without sharing it with others.
As I got stuck down a YouTube rabbit hole (another article coming for that, I’m sure), I found myself looking at 1960s footage of the impending Nobel laureate, Bob Dylan, serenading the masses with his hypnotic poetry and a pair of instruments that appeared to be a simple extension of himself. The contrast to a 21st Century concert is stark, where audiences participate with one eye on the artist and the other ensuring their camera phone is capturing the blurry, distant stage. It feels like the most obvious example of how we are motivated to capture and share experiences that once would’ve simply been compartmentalized in the part of the brain, the limbic system, used for memories and experience.
Why do we do this?
So what it is it that motivates us to seek this validation from followers and friends that we probably wouldn’t even share a coffee with if they lived in the same street? I also wondered of myself why had I not been crafting and filtering scenes of me sat in traffic, ironing my shirts or cleaning the oven? This carefully curated catalogue of the perfect life isn’t fooling anyone, so what’s the point?
Just as we strive for this connectivity, so too do the adolescents we teach, who see capturing and sharing the inanity and banality of their existence as a way to help them relate and reach out to others. They can be pilloried for their fixation with the screen, where often it is an extension of themselves, more than an addition. It is the responsibility of parents and educators to help them find this balance in order to avoid the prospect of meltdown and anxiety when the battery goes flat (2).
I felt compelled to share my digital moments with friends and family as I enjoyed getting their responses and having them engage with my holiday, albeit vicariously and from afar. Now, even when traveling solo, you can bring your friends along with you. The challenge arises when, like at that concert, you start trying to capture everything through the pixelated lens, when sitting still for a moment and taking it in, just for yourself, can be one of the most nourishing ways to convert that moment to memory—no wifi required.
For further reading check out:
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.
Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
Jackson, Maggie. Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.
Aagaard, Jesper. Drawn to distraction: A Qualitative Study of Off-task Use of Educational Technology. (2014)
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Themeisle.