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The Daily Tar Heel

Artfully arrange laptop, iPad and iPhone on table. Check Facebook. Send text to friend sitting 10 feet away.

Create new Pandora station around “All Star” to increase “confidence and productivity. Eat celebratory packet of fruit snacks. Check Facebook.

This is a typical Monday night for me — Davis Library, too many screens, not enough vitamin C.

It would now seem as if I am set to launch into a diatribe against technology’s potential for alienation.

The argument is certainly not an unexpected one. Countless articles and editorials media children public persona& media bad effect on children. have waxed on about the dangers of Facebook, how it distracts us from real human relationships and focuses us instead on building public personas.

The digitization of our world creates unbridgeable distances between us and our neighbors; the virtual eclipses the real with its layers of artifice. Behind the mask there is only another mask!

But all of these arguments, while I may be sympathetic to them, are an oversimplification.

Digital technologies and the internet have enabled a greater degree of connectivity across geographic distances than ever before. They have democratized the access to resources and opened space for new revolutionary possibilities.

And so this is not a call to retreat. I may have reached the ripe old age of 22, but I am not recommending that you lose the computer and instead begin to churn butter by hand in a barn.

No, I want to make a different point: In a world dominated by the digital screen and its simulacra, it is all too easy to lose the richness of sensory experience.

Over and over, our eyes train themselves on the laptop screen. Our fingers have worn soft grooves into the “E” and “N” keys.

Even when walking through campus, we tend to plug into the tinny beats of iPod headphones instead of opening ourselves to the sounds our bodies create by passing through — the grind of soil beneath our shoes, the scuff of toes against uneven brick.

The internet can bring us videos of alpacas playing or images of glaciers nestled between far-off peaks. But it doesn’t have the same weight — doesn’t bring the same overabundance — that the real world musters.

Surrounded by the digital, we miss all the little cues of our presence in a place: texture, sound, smell, the way light reverberates in the leaves, the weight of a stone resting in your palm.

When we push against the surfaces of the world, they push back.

And so this is not a dramatic statement or a radical call to action.

It is just to say that there is something good about digging into the meat of an avocado for a pit, about breathing in the first hints of spring emanating from the soil, about relishing the scratch of a woolly sweater on the soft underbelly of a wrist.

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