Livemint in 2018 featured an article that remarked that India’s urban youth spend free time online, not outside, which points to a decreasing emphasis on experiencing nature as compared to any of the previous generations. This also probes us to explore the key challenge for the millennials: If we really are the most inter connected yet disconnected generation?
If I take a hard look at myself, I have to raise my hand and be counted as one of the Millennials that spends more time on a screen than exploring real-life experience with nature.
I live in Gurgaon, work a full-time corporate job, and live in a high-rise apartment. If I were to reflect on the 24 hours any weekday, I can conveniently say I spend 70% time awake online, making innumerable presentations and attending work calls. Everyday I open my laptop to an avalanche of emails and to the voice of my manager asking, “how is it going”? But hold on, there are the weekdays, when I spend maximum time acting like binging on Netflix and scrolling through Instagram. In order to satisfy my latent need to explore nature, I follow dozens of people on Instagram who post “nature porn” on a regular basis and bring the glory of nature directly to my iPhone screen!
But this everyday of grind that makes life linear also drains you. The best way to rejuvenate is to go back to our roots and unwinding into the lap of nature earth.
Last year, I decided to give myself the much-needed break. I needed a day of no work calls, no work colleagues, no PowerPoint and no outlook for sure. Additionally, I needed to satisfy my appetite to see beautiful landscapes, which actually inspired me to seek out more experiences outdoors with nature. Also, it is said that you truly meet yourself when no one is watching, yes not even Google! I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to buy the peace I needed to reflect on what’s next!
So, I planned my outdoor trip which was largely informed by Instagram feeds and stories from friends who had gone. After finding an amazing flight deal, a combination of Instagram and travel blogs, I got the confidence I needed to plan a two-week long nature retreat.
One part of the trip was a jungle hike. We started our journey to the top. We walked 25,000 steps. We walked past tons of varieties of bushes in shades of green I had never seen earlier. The wind blew through the air in just the right times to make me feel rewarded. I could see greens till the farthest point visible to my naked eye. Two tiny squirrels ran past me, I joked mentioning they must have a deadline to meet and their bosses may be pinging them.
Wait, where was my phone? My phone was buried deep inside of a bag inside of my backpack and I didn’t miss looking at it for 10 hours! I didn’t miss checking my messages for 10 hours straight?!
This experience probed me to ponder over the changing dynamics of my generation’s relationship with nature and technology over the years. I was reintroduced to the joy of exploring nature, which I enjoyed immensely as a child. A part of it stems from my early years of experiencing living and enjoying nature, the clear sky and the fresh breeze that would blow past me in my local garden. A sight that is so rare now in the modern-day city, I live in.
The simple joys of waking up to fresh air, dancing around green trees and waiting for trees to bear fruits are experiences we have deprioritized in our pursuit to become more “cemented”. I am almost certain the next generation would only hear about these in story books. Increasingly, we notice the “real experience” being substituted by the “reel experience”.
This thought got me talking to a friend about the complicated relationship between technology and nature for our generation. In some ways, there’s great tension between the two ideas – the comfort of enjoying virtually and aiming for commercial expansion but, at the same time not valuing enough about the experience of living in a balanced ecosystem.
National Geographic also asked a few millennials about how they felt about enjoying and missing the perks of our current mindset and the true experience of thriving and enjoying nature. The video ends with a millennial saying it’s one thing to have it with technology and another to say they have it authentically. But what if we do too little to save the authentic experience?
I returned to the city; I called it a “cement world” and opened my phone to the same avalanche of emails and to the voice of my manager asking, “how is it going”? yet again. I was back to a future “smart city”. I got my questions back with me as well.
Is it technology that has distanced us from nature? Does our smart ways distance us from the gifts of ecological nature? Will I live a happy healthy life by not substituting it? Can use of technology and nature not co-exist? Do we need to walk slow but long?
Is there a better solution, I certainly don’t have the answer, but I believe it is certainly a challenge for our generation!
Prabshran deep Kaur