This Labor Day weekend was, to date, one of the best for my family. We didn’t grill, go fishing on a lake, hunt for doves, practice our golf swing or travel outside of Greenville. I didn’t even sleep in.
I woke up bright and early Monday morning to follow along with my niece, who lives in Dallas, as she readied to give birth to her first baby, all from the comfort of my living room couch.
Though I often chastise modern-day technology and the way it has most of us utterly addicted, this was one of the times I was deeply grateful for its existence.
From 400 miles away, I was able to support my niece as she went through the steps of labor and delivery.
Twenty years ago, this would not have been possible. A phone call, perhaps, but not without a hefty phone bill attached to it. With no added costs, I was able to speak “face to face” with my niece the entire day, except during the actual delivery, of course, as she was a tad preoccupied.
I’m proud to report she delivered a healthy baby boy weighing 8 pounds, 2 ounces. Not even an hour after he was born, I was watching live videos of him look curiously at his surroundings.
Forty years ago, a quick phone call might be made to announce the arrival of a new member of the family. Then, several weeks later when photos were finally developed, you would finally receive some photographs in the mail to see what the bundle of joy looks like.
Go much further back in time, and you may not even know where many of your distant relatives lived, let alone if they had children.
As much as I love to hate technology and the way it can often bring out the worst in us, it has also brought many of us closer to each other.
Facebook and other social media platforms makes it easy to stay up-to-date on each others’ lives. Truth be told, it’s the main reason I haven’t permanently deleted all of my accounts.
This wonderful gift of technology is one of the reasons I take pause and even laugh when I hear someone say how much they’ve struggled to be alone during the pandemic.
I’m not insensitive. It is a wonderful feeling to hug someone you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s good to be with close friends and family under the same roof.
Throughout this pandemic, I have never felt alone. That probably sounds like a silly statement as I have never literally been alone thanks to my husband and children, but I have always been able to pick up my phone and make a call to someone I was missing in particular that day. I’ve been on more Skype, Zoom and Marco Polo sessions in these past few months than I ever have before in total. It’s not ideal, but it’s doable and better than nothing at all.
There was a recent study discussed in “Science” magazine that offered people a choice between receiving a series of mild electric shocks or being alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. Many opted for the electric shocks.
What is so scary about being alone with no distractions?
This mindset, I’m afraid, is becoming more prevalent, especially amongst younger generations. We are constantly distracted, whether it’s from reading books, watching television or engaging on social media.
We seem to think doing nothing, even for just 15 minutes, carries a negative connotation.
Psychologists will tell you being alone gives us a chance to clear our minds, focus and think more clearly. It’s an opportunity to revitalize our minds and bodies simultaneously. There are a plethora of scientific articles and studies that prove this to be true, but it still remains a terrifying thought for many people.
Of course, no one would want to be alone for months and years at a time. Socialization and communication with others is just as important for our mental health. Much like diet and exercise, we need to find that healthy balance.
Being alone shouldn’t be scary, especially today. If any of us are feeling lonely, all we have to do is pick up our phones and communication can be found in a manner of seconds.
So long as we’re being told not to gather in large settings, it’s up to us to figure out how to fill the void. Rather than get bogged down by what we can’t do, we should focus on what we can do.
Catherine Kirk is managing editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.