Look up, look down, look all around

December 11th, 2014


“This media we call social is anything but, when it’s our computers that we open and our doors that we shut.”


This is one of the opening lines in the viral YouTube video by Gary Turk called “Look Up.” In its essence, this video is an emotionally moving, poetic commentary on our generation’s attachment to technology. It currently has over 48 million views, and for a good reason.


The first time I watched it, I was stricken with regret and shame. The video showed countless images of people attached to their phones and iPads, restlessly browsing through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and remaining oblivious to the rest of the world around them. Unfortunately, I recognized myself as one of the millions enslaved by technology.


“All this technology we have, it’s just an illusion – community, companionship, and a sense of inclusion. Yet when you step away from this device of delusion, you awaken to see a world of confusion. A world where we are slaves to the technology we mastered…”


It’s true. I’m often struck by a sense of how big the world is, and too many times I’ve turned to technology, especially social media, seeking companionship to ease my loneliness and doubt. And, I’ve become a slave to the feeling of inclusion that derives from the constant connection to my “friends” on social media.


I’ve spent hours browsing through pictures on Facebook, and more times than not, I’ve been left feeling more isolated than when I first opened my computer. So, I agree with Gary Turk – it’s time to look up. “Don’t waste your life getting caught in the net, ‘cause when the end comes, there’s nothing worse than regret.”


As a 21 year old with years of youth and adventure before me, this message rings especially true. However, as a college student, I am also left with a difficult internal conflict. I want to look up, but I am required to look down. As a communications student, I have a number of expectations from my professors and from professionals in the field. I am expected to be well-read, up to date with the news, have a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, have a top-notch LinkedIn profile and maintain a blog with weekly posts.


With this number of expectations, how could I possibly look up?


I know developing my career is not the most important thing in life. I know that when I’m on my deathbed, I won’t be grateful for the number of page views I got on my LinkedIn profile or the countless hours spent reading CNN.


But, the fact is that I am graduating in less than six months. I need to start my career, or else risk facing years of living below the poverty line. There’s no guarantee I’m prepared for life after graduation.  And, this realization currently consumes my thoughts each day.


I want to look up, but I have to look down. I have to take advantage of my technological resources to make sure that I end up where I need to be.


Or, I could risk it all, go wherever the wind blows and live my entire life with a sense of uncertainty but extreme awareness of the world around me. Either way, I have a big choice to make. We all do.


So, what if I look up, and then look down? What if I look at everything? Who says it has to be one thing or the other? Technology is just as much a part of reality as the people we pass on the street each day. Why not experience both?


No one should be encouraged to live their lives through technology, but no one should be expected to live completely separate from it either. Whether we like it or not, we all have expectations to meet and obstacles to overcome. We just need to remember to strike that balance by looking in all directions.


After all, we don’t want to miss the opportunity of a lifetime.