By Lisa Sugarman
Now I’ve never made it a secret that I’m a big believer in signs. Because I love all that stuff. And by ‘that stuff’ I don’t mean zodiac signs. I mean little whispers from beyond. You know, signs from above. In fact, I’m always quietly watching for them, excited when I get a gentle poke from the Powers that Be.
And while I’m fully capable of existing without consulting tea leaves before I leave the house, I’ve always believed that the universe somehow manages to reach out to us with exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. We just have to make sure we’re paying attention. So it was lucky for me that I was looking in the right direction the other day when The Powers sent me a delicious little nugget.
I was sitting at my laptop, glancing at my Facebook page during a brief break from some super-intense column research, when a random post came across my News Feed. Funnily enough, it was from my husband Dave, who rarely posts anything on Facebook unless, of course, it’s one of my columns that he’s obligated by marriage to share.
His post was about a video. A video he insisted I watch. A video he insisted everyone should watch. Because if we watched it, it would reveal an important truth—that we’ve become a society that’s forgotten how to look up.
Now think about that for a second.
It’s true. Because let’s face it, a scary number of people spend way too much time looking down instead of looking at what’s going on around them. And as long as our eyes are focused on a display screen, we’re missing the world around us.
This video Dave wants everyone to watch was written, directed, and filmed by this regular ordinary guy named Gary Turk. Look Up, a five-minute short, speaks directly to the “connected generation” who is so focused on looking down at the screen in their hand that they’re missing out on the real world around them. And I’ve gotta say, this Gary guy is spot on. Because let me be the first to admit that in spite of my best efforts, I’m guilty of it for sure.
Turns out that this simple but brilliant video has become an Internet phenomenon. It’s a blunt but important reminder that we’re all becoming dangerously unsocial and too co-dependent on the technology around us. Especially our kids. Because for most of them, this way of life is all they know.
I mean, we as adults remember exactly what life was like when the only way we could connect with someone was in person or over the phone. But that was back in the day when TV was the only real electronic distraction. Once we got up from the TV the distraction was left behind in the den. When we got in the car or went out to eat or went outside to play, our time was pure and uninterrupted. But now, we all carry a constant distraction with us in our back pocket.
What Look Up reveals is that we’re slowly giving up actually living our lives in favor of watching representations of life from the palm of our hand. And if we don’t start backpedaling fast, we stand to lose more than any of us can imagine.
There’s been such a dramatic mind shift in the last decade, where devices have become so mainstream, that it’s almost like the laws of social etiquette have been rewritten. Devices have become so commonplace that it’s actually become strange to see someone without one. Very little that’s happening in the real world seems to be more important than what’s on the flat, one-dimensional display screen on our phone. And it’s only when it’s broken down in indisputable terms like it is in Look Up, that you can see it clearly. And it’s frightening.
I look at my own kids, both of whom have been taught to respect and appreciate the technology around them and have been given clear and distinct boundaries. And yet even with the disclaimer that we’ve given them about no phones at the table and maintaining healthy limits, I can still see how devices have altered their thinking and behavior. Snap Chats and texts have all but replaced voice-to-voice and face-to-face contact. Getting out and climbing trees and riding bikes have been replaced by watching YouTube videos about climbing trees and riding bikes. (Ok, my kids actually are crazy tree climbers. I was just exaggerating for dramatic effect.)
But the reality is, it’s not just their generation. It’s most of us living in an Internet and device-driven world. I see it in myself. I see it in the people around me. We’ve all been genetically modified. And our new DNA has been written to include a Smartphone in every hand, to check our phones before our feet even hit the floor in the morning, to post and share all of our milestones. And while so much of the technology that we’ve acquired is good and useful and groundbreaking, none of it is more valuable than the simple and beautiful world around us.
Look Up is a powerful reminder of what’s really important in life. And the genius of it is that it’s written as a poem and paired with a video, giving simple folk like me a visual representation to connect with. And while the video targets today’s younger generation, it actually does a remarkable job of reaching everyone who uses any kind of modern technology device.
Without giving the whole video away, the premise is simple: Go out into the world and leave distractions behind. Turk says, we’ve become a generation of idiots. Smart phones and dumb people. And he’s not entirely wrong. When you’re so busy looking down, he says, you don’t see the possibilities that you miss. And you know what? He’s right.
Look, I know that, for a lot of us, these Smartphones and devices simplify our lives and make us more productive and accessible and efficient. But like anything that’s got an upside, it’s got a downside too. It has the ability to devour our time.
So I guess all I’m saying here is that we could all benefit from watching Look Up. Because for me, this little five-minute video was the sign I needed to step back. It was a gentle but necessary flick to the back of the head that reminded me to make a more conscious effort to look up. Because we all need to remember that it’s easy to get sucked down a path and then lose our way because we forgot to pay attention to where we were. Especially when everyone around us is walking in the same direction.
So I know it’s hypocritical to ask, given all that I’ve just said, but there’s something I need you to do. Search Look Up video on your laptop or your phone and give me five more minutes of your time. Then just watch and listen. And while the video may not inspire you to back your car over your phone and close your Facebook account, I’m pretty sure at the very least it will give you a healthy pause. Then, when you’re done, look up from your phone, shut down your display, take in your surroundings, and make the most of the day. Go out into the world and leave all the distractions behind. Live life the real way.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.