Unplugging to connect

This summer, by way of an internship, I had the opportunity to go to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association conference in D.C.

The keynote speech was full of broadcasting jargon, which mostly swam in one ear and out the other as I contemplated sneaking out to the snack table for cookies. However I do recall one advertising slogan that had been chosen by the association for their new campaign. “Cable,” it read, “it’s how we connect.”

I remember ruminating on that statement afterwards, somewhat saddened by the picture it painted – is this what it’s come to? Have television and its online counterparts become so woven into our lives that we cannot connect without them? 

As if in answer, this voyage to the Middle East has responded with a resilient ‘Certainly not!’

So far, the lack of screen time has not caused our team to suffer; indeed, countless connections have been made in our group both within its members and the outside world. One of my favorite aspects of this past week has been the avid conversation, tête-à-têtes, and stories shared at meal times. I feel such joy in learning about others’ lives and viewpoints, even if it means hearing a particularly horrifying retelling of a fellow student’s experiences as a camp counselor.

I’m also touched by the conversations that have resulted from a mutually limited vocabulary. One night last week, six of us girls piled into one of the small Istanbul taxis that comfortably sit four and handed the driver a slip of paper with our destination on it – in itself a testament to our lack of communication skills.

We chattered among our group a bit until the cab driver exclaimed “AMERICA!”

“AMERICA!” we all cheered and choppily told him in Turkish that Istanbul is beautiful. The cab driver complimented our Turkish and then said (in Turkish), “one driver, six women!”

We were overjoyed to find that we could understand and then in unison – one driver and six women – we counted to ten in Turkish ending in a resounding celebration and laughter.

While a slightly awkward silence followed as our Turkish had now been relatively exhausted, I felt very satisfied. What a simply wonderful interaction with a perfect stranger, and all without an episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ in front of us! I could get used to this



About stotime

14 young adults, two fearless leaders, a multitude of language barriers and a world worth exploring.
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One Response to Unplugging to connect

  1. Kim Canning (friend of Matt Johnson) says:

    I am enjoying so many of your fellow travelers’ posts from your journey through the Middle East. This one in particular is timely in that I just read a book review in today’s Boston Globe about how disconnected our society is due to the ability to CONNECT to the vast amounts of technology available to us. From the article: Author Giles Slade, makes the point that the better technology gets, the more isolated we, as a society, get. . . . We drive to work alone, listen to music through earbuds, and play Call of Duty against faceless strangers. It seems that technology is no friend of friendship. . . . Giles frets that our lonely hours in front of the TV or the PC are stolen from the personal interactions with family and friends. (The Big Disconnect by Giles Slade; review by Hiawatha Bray)
    I am going to share your post with my teenage children and continue to encourage my family to leave behind the isolation creating world of technology once in awhile in exchange for the opportunity to interact with the world in which they live.

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