Back Before Everything was Automatic

Back Before Everything was Automatic

By Alyssa Guzman

A few days ago, I was engaging in one of my favorite activities: driving around at night and blasting music. Since I broke my CD player within the first week of getting my car (sorry, dad), I’ve been forced to listen to the radio. Usually, I hate the radio, but when a new song by one of my favorite country artists Miranda Lambert came on, I was grateful for the radio.

Lambert’s song called “Automatic” really made me think.

“If you had something to say/ You’d write it on a piece of paper/ Then you put a stamp on it/ And they’d get it three days later.”

But now, instead of sending letters, we send text messages. Instead of developing pictures and putting them in photo albums, we post them to Instagram. Instead of getting to know someone by talking face to face and going out on dates, we Snapchat, Facebook chat, and text.

The problem is that we take the easy way out of everything, and in doing that, we are cheating ourselves out of experiencing life for what it really is.

Think about the last time you needed help with your math homework. Did you call a friend, go to the lit center, or Google it? My best guess would be that you went with option C: Google (aka everyone’s best friend). Now, I know what most of you are thinking: if we have this technology, what’s wrong with using it? Obviously I’m not going to pick up a dumb dictionary and take 30 extra seconds to look up a word when I could just use Google to define it. Duh, Alyssa. You’re so annoying with your dumb columns.

Well, the problem — as Lambert so beautifully phrased it in her song — is this: “Hey whatever happened to, waitin’ your turn/ Doing it all by hand? cause when everything is handed to you/ It’s all only worth as much as the time you put in.”

And that is the absolute truth. The results we get out of something are directly correlated to the amount of time put in. And these days, we don’t put much time into anything at all, precisely because everything is automatic.

The word automatic is defined as working by itself with little or no human control, done or occurring spontaneously, without conscious thought or intention.

Sure, Googling a definition (as I just did, the irony) isn’t going to hurt you, but the principle is the habits that we are getting ourselves into. My generation is in the habit of turning to Google for everything, which is why I just Googled that definition. The problem is that lots of our habits involve automatism. And that means that our habits — and the way we approach life — usually has little conscious thought or intention.

It’s about more than just coasting through life using technology to take the easy way out of everything. It’s about learning to be human and paying attention to our thoughts and emotions, instead of silencing them with Candy Crush and Twitter.

Now, since my love columns are rather infamous here at Niles West, I — of course — have to somehow relate this column back to the topic of love.

I specifically remember having a strong urge to delete my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram last year. There are a few reasons as to why I didn’t: first, it’s very hard to not have access to social media as an aspiring journalist these days (yet another example of how technology is unfortunately taking over); second, I have to keep up with my favorite band members and celebrities on twitter and Instagram to get insight on their lives. That’s just not even an option. But the third reason — and this is the saddest reason of them all — was because I was afraid to delete them. I actually thought to myself, but if I delete myself off social media, I may miss an opportunity to have a “thing” with a guy.

And yes, that’s embarrassing. And it’s stupid. But it’s the truth. Don’t deny it, because social media has gotten the best of all of us when it comes to potential love interests. If someone attractive favorites almost every single one of your tweets, it’s a big deal. It just is. If that person you’ve had your eye on for a while starts liking your selfies on Instagram, you like theirs back to reciprocate the potential interest that has been shown… by liking yet another selfie… or favoriting a tweet that’s really not even that funny. And then there are the “mass” Snapchats that look like they could potentially be sent to a lot of people, but really, they’re only sent to one person in hopes that some sort of communication will ensue.

My hope — as I’m writing this — is that most of you are nodding in agreement to what I’m saying so that I don’t seem crazy and weird, but my other hope is that you guys are also cringing — as I am — as you read this.

I’m cringing at how lifeless all of this is. We flirt with each other through social media rather than face to face. We are the generation where catfishing is a thing! I know entire relationships that have been started with a poke on Facebook, and the sad thing is that it’s okay. Or we think that it’s okay, but it’s really not. Because that’s not living. We are being cheated out of experiencing the exhilaration of the beginning of a relationship. In the past, one’s heart would race at the thought of the anticipation of that first date. Now, our hearts race when someone’s name pops up on our home screen.

I hate to be cliche, but I can’t help but think of the movie, “The Notebook.”

Noah got Ally’s attention by approaching her face to face and introducing himself (gasp!). He insisted that she go on a date with him. And when they went on that date, they actually talked. It wasn’t just a movie date (which are the worst) because after the movie date, Noah offered to take Ally on a walk, and they walked, and talked, and laid in the street and got to know each other. And the best part is that they slowly got to know each other. They didn’t text every single day and have pointless conversations. They spent a day together and went to bed at night wondering when the next time they would see each other would be, and what new things they would learn about each other through a face to face interaction. And yes it was romantic, and scripted, and cheesy, and unrealistic, and perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something from it.

There needs to be less texting as a means of getting to know one another, and more human interaction (some people call that going out on a date, it’s this revolutionary new idea). There needs to be less liking of Instagram pictures in hope that it will lead to something, and more of having enough confidence to approach someone and make your intentions clear.

As Lambert says, “It all just seems so good the way we had it/ Back before everything became automatic.”

So, let’s take her advice. Let’s not let all of this automatism take our lives over and allow us to take the easy way out of things.

“Let’s pull the windows down/ Windows with the cranks/ Come on let’s take a picture/ The kind you gotta shake.”