I’ve been working this summer on some amazing internet safety curricula for SWOVA.  It’s been yet another great opportunity to learn more about violence in our world, this time online.  It’s truly been an eye opener, because of course, I am 37, and grew up in an age where we didn’t really have today’s technology.  I only sent my first email when I went to University at the age of 19.  My first cell phone came in my last year there, and it was a really big deal to own one!  Of course now smart phones are super popular…and I am hooked like many people reading this right now.

The benefits of this technology are vast and numerous.  From booking accommodation or travel on the fly, to accessing Skype, email, Facebook, and even an old school compass, the smart phone really does it all.  There’s even a new app for Airbnb.com one of my favourite ways to travel to cool places and get great deals on accommodation.

 The technology is meant to connect us and make our lives easier.  But does it?

smartphone peopleLast night I was standing around with some people in the small town in Spain where I’ve been living for the summer.  I have stopped carrying the phone out with me, because I am convinced that I’m actually missing something as opposed to gaining something.  I said to some Italian friends of mine, when you start speaking Italian, and I don’t understand, my first inclination is to pull out the phone, and see if there are any emails or Facebook chats.  I do this to feel connected, and a sense of belonging.  But does it really achieve that?  Perhaps I might have an email from someone I care about, sure.  But it also takes me out of the social interaction; out of the amazing social scene which in every second is unfolding before my very eyes.  We stand outside of a pub-restaurant that is over 1000 years old.   People have been standing outside socializing for 1000 years!  So I told my friends that I have stopped bringing the phone and I will attempt to suffer through the internal silence; appreciate the beauty of their language, scan the crowd for a friendly face; someone that I might be able to strike up a conversation with, instead of a glowing screen.  Low and behold it works, and I connect.

At the end of August I will return to Salt Spring Island from Tarifa where I have had the most remarkably social summer.  I’ve been out in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, gelato shops, the beach, in people’s cars (see the best hitch hiking experiences I’ve had on my blog [www.kevinvowles.wordpress.com]).  I’ve never felt more alive.  I’ve never felt more connected to people.

In an effort to continue feeling like a fully embodied human being, I shall return to my life on Salt Spring Island without an operational smart phone.  I will still have my computer, because I simply could not finish my degree or exist in the capacity I do as an R+R facilitator without it.  From the YouTube videos that I show to youth, to the emails from funders, and the fact that it is a phone, it’s invaluable.  So I’m not anti-technology, but when I walk down the hall of GISS or SIMS, I do want to be able to have a conversation with someone.  I don’t want to miss someone, or appear that I am too busy, to be approached.  I’ll do daily check-ins at the SWOVA office and hopefully reduce the large volume of often inefficient electronic communication.  I’ll be embracing my humanity in doing so, and realizing greater human connection.  Salt Spring Island is just the place to do this, and I’m confident I’ll even feel a little smarter by reducing my addiction to the internet.  I’m dialing it back a little!

by Kevin Vowles, R+R Facilitator and Trainer