Saturday, December 17, 2011

Failure to Connect

I am sitting at my daughter’s basketball practice, laptop open, desperately trying to get a Wi-Fi connection.  All my feeble attempts at hacking through an unsecured network fail miserably.  I feel hopeless as I stare at the “No connection” message flashing on the screen.

And then it dawns on me.  Is Wi-Fi really what I need to feel connected? Why am I so desperate to get online?  Is it to login to my online classes and tend to students’ “I need this question answered RIGHT NOW!” demands? Or to keep my Facebook window open so as not to miss an all-important status update? Or is it to check in with my three email accounts just in case I’m desperately needed by someone?

A small, sarcastic laugh escapes my lips as my bench neighbor looks at me oddly and then slides away a few inches.  Now, I am shaking with internal laughter.  My daughter turns from her dribbling practice, smiles, and waves.  And it hits me.  For the past several months, I’ve been going through the motions of living while truly being trapped in the online world.

I had become so conditioned to only feel connected with others by constantly being online that it was a sudden wake-up call to realize that there is life outside the cyber window.  My laughter dies down almost as quickly as it began.  I’m laughing at myself and my own imagined self-importance. The false feeling of constant connection in the online world pales in comparison to looking around and watching my daughter proudly shoot from the free-throw line.  Hearing the whoosh of the ball as it slides seamlessly through the net makes my heart flutter more than any “you’ve got mail” message ever could.  Checking Yahoo News and joining online protests, petitions, and causes can’t hold a candle to seeing my daughter’s teammates clap each other on the back and high-five one another with giddy excitement.  Being online can’t compare to seeing, hearing, sensing, touching, and tasting in REAL life. 

Just as this revelation dawns on me, I hear a little “ding” on my phone letting me know I’ve got an email message waiting.  I resist the urge to grab it and check.  My fingers are itching.  One… Two… Three…I delay a few seconds longer and then can’t hold myself back.  I grab the phone and open the message…another petition lamenting Lowes’ discriminatory stance against the “All-American Muslim” show on TLC. 

I can’t help but feel the giggle gurgling inside me again.  Here I am, poised to respond with a raving rant of self-righteous indignation when I realize that since basketball season began, I have never once stopped to introduce myself to the other parents.  I have never taken the time to make an effort to get to know them.  Why? Not because I am an unfriendly person, but because I have been too consumed with always being “connected” online.  Even the connection I used to feel in writing seems to have faded in favor of the all-consuming cyber interactions.

Embarrassed and a bit sheepish, I put down the phone, close the laptop and turn to my bench neighbor.  “Hi, I’m Suzy.”  A raised eyebrow, a slight pause, and an imperceptible bob of the head… and before I know it, Ann is reaching out to shake my hand and eagerly discuss how well the girls are doing this season.

Basketball practice is wrapping up and Ann is packing her things… I can’t help but sneak back into my laptop.  Yes, I’m addicted.  But, with my fingers flying over the keys, I’m desperately seeking another connection.  Not an online one this time, but a connection through writing. 

And I find it.  The knowledge that someone, somewhere may find this post, read it, and nod in understanding...that’s some powerful connection.

Connecting to the world without Wi-Fi… what a concept!
          --Suzy Ismail

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