The world these days can be draining on the soul. At no other point in history have we enjoyed more material wealth and more instant gratification. Maybe, the right word is “uberization”. All it takes is clicking on the right app on your iPad or Smartphone, and service is at your doorstep. We live in a world where people line up for hours to get their hands on the latest iPhone, and Nordstrom caters to the customer’s every whim. The first 16 years of the 21st century has been marked by contradictions. Do we feel more fulfilled? Are we happier? Is instant gratification and material accumulation the peak of human progress? We move so quickly each day that it is hard to keep up. Yes, so much progress can be mentally draining.
Maybe this is why I have never been a fan of smart phones or even Apple. I was one of the last people in North America to purchase a smart phone – a very modest Nokia phone I paid for upfront. And only because I was desperate to connect with a group of professionals who used only Whatsapp. Soon, I realized the phone does not even take selfies. Maybe that’s why it was so cheap. All the better, because I hate selfies anyway. That takes me out of contention for the best Instagram post of the year. Also, I have no data plan so Instagram would be meaningless.
Despite all this progress, I have never lost a sense of what I value the most in life:
- Sitting down with a great book and a coffee. I still get a kick out of flipping through a real physical copy. I can write, underline and highlight as much as I want! This is how you really take in a book.
- Finding people who enjoy great discussions on current events and contemporary culture. When most people you know are busy chasing Pokemons, I value great conversations with people who enjoy debates and love to keep up with current events as much as I do. Material wealth should never blind you to the difficult issues we are facing as a global community today.
- Taking walks or spending time with my aging parents. I am fully aware that my parents are three decades older than me, and each day that passes is one fewer day we have left together. I tell myself that I’d better make it good. I know that my mom means well when she nags or misunderstands me. Or my dad who can be cranky but he means well.
- Connecting with old friends. If there is one thing Facebook has been useful for, it is a great tool to reconnect with friends. I value our memories together and also the fact they were right there when I was young and stupid. Despite the passage of time, we can still laugh about our 8th grade teachers. Old friends keep you grounded and remind you of where you come from.
- Being exactly who you are. Sometimes, you may feel like your interests are at odds what what mainstream society tells you to do, but it does not matter. I think being the odd one out sometimes gives you a chance to view the world through a critical lens. Not buying into the crowd mentality makes you a stronger person because you are not dependent on other people’s validation.
I have never said I reject technology and the material wealth that has made the 21st century an exceptional one. As we hurtle along this trajectory of humanity, there are certain things that material wealth will never replace. They are really what make us active participants in this world. Active and thinking.