I have now been home for two months. The strange thing is that I still feel like I never left home. The routines of my parents, and the overall lifestyles of many of my friends aren't drastically different than they were before just in different settings. Yet, in spite of this seeming comfort I still find myself overwhelmed over the most random junctures of day-to-day life.
Most recently I've noticed how much our entertainment is rooted in watching stuff on our phones, TVs, or computers. I find myself captivated with all the forms of media, and the how remarkably easy it is to access anything. Thinking back to college, I remember how bonded I felt to friend groups based off of a video on YouTube, but it seems even more ubiquitous now then it did back then. Granted some of that could me own perception having been removed from an intensely wired society, but something tells me there is more to it than that. In conversations I find more and more that the substance is driven by seeing something online. It is almost as though seeing someone get hit in the crotch with a potato gun fired from a guy in a Santa Claus suit give us more substance to our lives than our day to day actions. To be honest, if I saw something like that online it might actually be the most bizarre thing I see in a day and would thus be inspired to talk about it. The problem I have with it is that I find myself constantly looking at screens because of the importance of finding relatable topics to bring up to my friends in conversation.
If I am at a bar there are at least a dozen HD TVs in the room I am in. Often times there are more. It is almost impossible to not look at the brightly colored screen especially when Sportscenter is on beating another story into the ground with their team of 65 analysts. In Paraguay, I did see young people constantly on their phones or using social media, but for the most part the art of the conversation reigned supreme. You had to carry on a discourse with another person because there were no other distractions aside from what was going on around you. The substance of those interactions were more focused on the immediate environment. The truck that blew out a tire, the mango that almost hit Juancito on the head, or the lack of a particular item in the store. People were not constantly on the move from place to place. Interaction occurred incessantly all around and that is what we talked about.
Since I've been home I notice I comment on why we as Americans do certain things the way we do. Why are bars full of big screen TV's? Why when it is -15 degrees outside does my water come with ice? Why are our my instincts when something breaks to buy a new one rather than attempt to fix it? These question plague me and constantly weigh on my mind. Everybody has something interesting to say if you really probe them about their interests, but it is easy to deflect the questions to a more light hearted YouTube clip, or the most recent episode of whatever show.
I am super guilty of this. I would read just about every night when I was in Paraguay, but now I find myself binging on books when I have time riding in a car, or waiting at doctors office rather than having some consistency. I get distracted too easily by what is on TV or the internet. I am not even saying it is a bad thing, but my social interactions are more dictated by what is popular rather than what I actually find important. If you want to sit around and watch TV all day that can be a tremendous stress reliever, but why is it everywhere I go? Are we so tired from doing our jobs and working to support ourselves that we really don't have the energy to do something active with our free time and I don't mean a regimented daily work out at the gym that is preplanned. It is almost as though spontaneity has been been eliminated from our lives. If social calendars are not planned in advance through a text or email do they even happen as much as we subconsciously want? It is weird to go up to a neighbor's doorstep and say hi without advance warning these days just to name an example.
I find myself asking questions that I never would of thought of before. Questioning even the most familiar things makes me realize how complex our lives really are. There is always something new to learn. Some social trend, app, or other piece of technology, but I find that most of these things are just tools to help us find the activities we really enjoy doing. The problem is how overwhelming that can be when all you really need to have a good time with your friends is a setting and a topic.