By Julia Holzapfel

The saying, “one step forward and two steps back,” applies to the state of our society. As we reach expansive new frontiers of technological achievement, the human brain, social connections and creativity are dying a slow death, rather like a frog that meets its untimely end by bathing in a pot of slowly boiling water, utterly unaware of its impeding death.

As people are increasingly able to “connect” from anywhere with anyone through the use of smartphones, social networking and constant on-the-go sensory stimulation, we are ironically growing more disconnected from one another. Where once a sense of community existed, our culture now supports, more than ever, separation and independence, as modeled in modern suburban environments where each person is contained in their own “box.”

Technology is advancing at a speed which human development, adaptation, laws, and ethics cannot match. People are constantly hooked in, but are decreasingly present in the current moment. In waiting rooms, people no longer engage in friendly small talk, instead each patron sits quietly staring at the bright screen in their hands. Why aren’t more people questioning how healthy this behavior is?

As people gain access to this virtual world, it seems the real world shrinks before their eyes. What makes a virtual community more desirable then a physical community? How is this onslaught of technological development going to affect future generations?

When once we had minds to engage in creative thinking, we now have Siri to think for us. Once we used our brains to navigate with a map, now we have a GPS to tell us where to go. When technology encourages us to multitask, we grow inevitably less mindful of each task we engage in.

Relationships, social connection and critical thinking are all interrupted by this incredibly prevalent use of technology as a form of communication and networking. People are so attached to their phones and virtual identities that they often undergo withdrawals if they leave their little technological friends behind, even if just for a few hours.

I encourage anyone reading this to go ahead and try disconnecting for a day or two. Focus on building a connection with those around you and nurturing the relationships you have already built. Forget about Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. Focus instead on your community, your intention and your presence.

Make each moment count and count each moment. After doing this, you may feel a sense of relief because you are no longer bound, no longer enslaved, entranced and obsessed with your virtual life.

I believe that only when you have realized this will you be truly free, free to connect, free to think and free to be happy.

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Julia Holzapfel, MSW, ASW, lives in the Springs and is a recent Master of Social Work graduate pursuing a career in clinical social work.