Go offline to connect to real life Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Sep. 18, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Yesterday, I left my cellphone on the kitchen table when I left the house. It felt as if the apocalypse happened. The first hour wasn't so bad. It was bright and early in the morning, and I had coffee to drink and work to do.

The second hour was a little worse. I really wanted to check my email, and my texting thumb was getting twitchy. It was only the third hour away from my phone when I got a frantic email from a relative: Why wasn't I answering the phone? Was everything all right?

By lunchtime, I felt like I was going crazy, divorced from the world, trapped in a cage, and bored to tears. So I went for a walk with an acquaintance instead.

Not far from my office is a lake populated by hundreds of swans of every kind. Black swans, white swans, baby swans, even swans with spots and stripes. I sat on a bench and watched them swim and play, search for food, and chase the lunchtime joggers.

I saw the blue sky and listened to the birds in the trees. I watched tourists take pictures by the massive sculpture. I had a fantastic chat with my new friend and learned that we had a bunch of things in common. It was amazingly fun, and if I'd had my nose in my phone, I would have missed it all.

When I got home that day, I picked up my phone to check my messages. As expected, there were a million texts and emails wondering where I'd gone. But I didn't feel relieved to finally be reunited with my little technological wonder -- instead, I felt trapped.

What's the point of mobile technology if we use it to isolate ourselves rather than truly connect to others? What's the point, if phones become an annoying obligation instead of a truly pleasant experience?

Texting is awesome, but it doesn't beat actually hanging out with the people. Likewise, Instagram is really fun, but I think I'd rather be in the pictures taken in the first place rather than just flipping through them online.

My experience showed that, even though I have more connectivity to the world around me than ever before, I still feel lonely sometimes. That feels weird to acknowledge, especially when I can chat online with my besties in New York and North Carolina, and Skype across an entire ocean with my brother's British fiancee.

It's perfectly normal to feel that way. It's just a reminder that we are more than our Facebook profile, how we look in a Snapchat photo, or how many party photos we post to Twitter.

We're real human beings, and we need real human interaction. It doesn't matter how much our phone blows up on any given day -- if we're walled up in our room, we're still going to feel lonely and trapped instead of free and happy.

So, by all means: text away! But don't forget to reserve some time for true reality: your friends' smiles, the blue sky. Go out and play sports together, take a trip to the mall, do some volunteer work with your church youth group, or hit the park or the beach. It doesn't take a lot of time or a lot of money to have a lot of fun.

After all, you need something amazing to post to Instagram, right?

Turn it off and tune in!

Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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