I am old enough to remember life without mobile phones. Life without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tinder. In fact, I am old enough to remember life without answering machines and voicemail even.
Back in the day I had to talk to parents and siblings, and later roommates, to get through to friends and boyfriends. I remember being left hanging with a big red plastic receiver in my hand, while a little brother got distracted on the way to fetch his sister to my phone call. I remember leaving messages with roommates, hoping they wouldn't get lost. I also remember forgetting all about messages I was supposed to deliver. I remember feeling chained by the phone, waiting for some guy to call, and then, when getting tired of waiting, leaving the house and the phone, and once away from it, feeling free to live my life, not knowing whether he had called or not. Now that freedom doesn't exist anymore. We can be ignored 24 hours a day and on many different arenas. We can also be reached, bothered, prompted and interrupted 24 hours a day. I can tell (s)he has read my whatsapp message, why isn't (s)he responding?
In my parents' attic I have hundreds of letters, like, physical letters, still saved in boxes and big black garbage bags. Every now and then I pull out a few letters randomly, and every time I am touched to tears. Because these letters were carefully composed by friends (and sometimes strangers in faraway places like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka that I called pen pals). They had taken the time to sit down with a pen and a paper to put their thoughts on paper, or perhaps write a little story or a poem or an update on what was going on in their lives at that time. Often beautiful stationary was used. Sometimes it was handmade. Sometimes mixed-tapes were included. Or stickers. Or photos. When the process of writing was finished, letters had to be sealed and addressed, stamps had to be purchased and then the letters were carried to mailboxes. Traveling over seas, over lands, on planes, boats and trucks, and for the final stretch, on bicycle to reach me. I loved receiving these greetings. It was a ceremony sitting down and carefully opening it with the special tool (do they even exist anymore?). And to write letters was therapeutic.
I still occasionally write letters to friends, maybe I manage to send a few letters a year, while as a teenager I send several letters a week.
I guess I feel like I no longer have time for it. But how much of my time is eaten by Instagram, youtube, internet, SMS, and computer problems?
And I am someone who tries to spend as little time on social media / with online communications as possible.
I've never been on Twitter, I was on FB for a short time, but shut it down in 2009 and never looked back. I never have skype on. Only if I have an agreed upon date with a friend living on the other side of the world. I have never seen or used snapchat or Tinder. I am on Instagram, but I don't have it on my phone so I don't check very often (and when I do, quite honestly, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth). The only prompts my phone is set to receive are for text messages.
I know, I am old. And I am saying that things used to better. I used to hate hearing older people saying that. Because I was always one step behind ... I moved to New York only AFTER it stopped being cool. I moved to Berlin after the city had had its peak ... I missed out on the sixties ...
I remember when 'surfing the internet' seemed like a miracle. I remember getting my first email address ending in.edu (for education) while I was at college in New York. I didn't have a computer at home, but a few times a week I would go to the computer room at school to check my inbox. Every now and then there was an email there. A few years later, I had a laptop and internet access at home. That was around year 2000. I still didn't have a mobile phone, I only got one in 2003, I think, but even then far from all my friends had one. Manhattan was still sprinkled with dingy pay phones were you put a quarter in and sometimes could smell the halitosis breath of the previous user on the receiver. By 2005 when I was living in New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina shattered the city, pretty much everyone I knew had mobile phones.
We were using a web browser called AltaVista. Selecting our top 8 friends on Myspace. Looking for love and sex on Nerve.
Still, Facebook, Instagram and Tinder/Grindr didn't exist.
And what I am asking you is; Have these things made our lives richer, fuller, happier? Perhaps you aren't old enough to remember life without internet, without mobile phones, without Facebook, without Google? Can you imagine life without them?
And right about now, you may be asking, but what does this have to do with yoga?
Just before Christmas, teaching my last C-level class at Studio Sonne, I noticed a yogi ( a man I had never seen before) sitting up during Savasana and proceed to pull his iphone out of his yoga pants and start to fiddle with it. Had I not disturbed everyone else actually receiving the most important asana, blissfully surrendering with eyes' closed supine on their yoga mats, melting, floating away, I would have yelled at him. What the hell are you doing to yourself? What can be so important that you need interrupt fucking savasana?!?
At yellow yoga mobile phones are naturally NOT allowed in the shala. Despite this being totally obvious to me -- aren't we at yoga to connect with our inner landscapes not to check Facebook or Instagram or email?! -- at many other yoga studios I see yogis sitting on their mats, their necks craned, their eyes bulging and their fingers busy, huddled over their devices right up until the teacher starts the class. This makes me sad. Because are stressors. FOMO. They are about external stimuli/gratification when we want to connect with that which lies within and doesn't need likes on insta to be happy. Also, if your mobile phone rings or blips during savasana, you rob everyone else of their peace.
Recently a friend was visiting me. Mostly everyone I know (myself included) are way too involved with our devices, we display compulsive and unhealthy behaviors regarding internet and social media. But most of my friends seem to agree on some simple rules on how to behave with our devices while we are in the company of others.
Should you need to text/call/check something while in the company of a REAL human being NOW that should be a VERY IMPORTANT matter and should be accompanied by an apology.
At dinner/drinks/coffee with a REAL human being in the PRESENT the smartphone should NOT BE VISIBLE. It should be in a pocket or a bag, away from vision, and preferably also turned off.
This friend did not play by these rules. Instead she was constantly on her phone, texting, Facebooking, Tindering, whatsapping and whatever else she was doing. She is also extremely active on social media, and to me, unless it's truly for professional purposes, anyone who posts too often (which to me is daily or more) on Instagram (Facebook I quit 7 years ago and never ever looked back), it's obviously a cry for attention/for love/for appreciation. It is a sign that this person isn't doing so well. But that's probably not the signals they think they are sending out into the WWW.
And that makes me sad. Especially since studies show that social media actually makes us unhappy. Comparison (which is a lot of what's happening there) is the killer of all joy.
And also, I wish that people would pour their creative juices into creating something making a bigger and better impact than a perfect selfie, or a witty tweet.