“Too many computers, not enough bikes.”
A man once said those words to me. At the time, there were two laptops in front of me. One was my sister’s and the other one was mine. Glen, the man who spoke the words, is an older guy who loves to travel around on his bike.
So what did he mean by it? I think he was expressing his concern about how teenagers always have their noses stuck in some form of electronic device instead of experiencing the world the way he thinks people should, like say, taking a ride on a bike or enjoying a meal without the need to pick the perfect photo filter so everyone can see just how much you’re enjoying your meal, which has probably turned cold by now.
What Glen said made perfect sense. The age of social media and technology has made us turn a blind eye to things that we would otherwise find enjoyable if only we could stop tapping on the screen and look, really look around us, without feeling the urge to take a photo of anything.
If only we still asked strangers for directions instead of using Google Maps, or talked to our grandparents and cousins during family gatherings instead of texting on the phone. If only we remembered how good we had it, as Glen eloquently implied with his comparison between computers and bikes.
However, I also think Glen is wrong. Because at the moment he told me all that, I was not watching cat videos on YouTube or cracking up about something funny on Tumblr or commenting on someone’s baby photo on Facebook. I was typing an article about journaling.
So in my opinion, Glen was jumping to conclusions. He took one look at my age, at the apparatus I was using, and made the deduction that I was wasting my time doing something useless on social media. But in reality, I was using my laptop to practice one of my greatest hobbies: writing.
What I’m trying to say is, my laptop is to me what Glen’s bike is to him. These are two different objects designed to satisfy different desires and to serve different purposes. They are “a means to an end,” not the end in and of itself. Maybe his bike gives him the satisfaction of breathing in fresh air as he travels from state to state, of keeping him healthy and fit, of letting him perceive the world in the way he thinks is best.
Maybe he’s the kind of guy who prefers to sit under the shade of a tree and enjoys flipping through the pages of a good book. But maybe I like that my laptop lets me keep my Word files private. Maybe I like the way it organizes my ebooks, since I don’t have the ability to lug all of my physical books around. Maybe I like that it helps me slowly but surely build my confidence to write more and write better. Maybe what Glen lacks is a sense of perspective.
No matter your age or your social standing or how much money you make, please remember this: You should think before you speak. Before you tell your friend that the girl in your English Literature class is too quiet, stop and think. Maybe she never had any friends growing up and is nervous in social situations. Before you tell your child that she is lazy for staying in bed all day, stop and think. Maybe she is depressed and needs your support. Before you start going through your complete vocabulary of curse words when a speeding car grazes your car’s mirror, stop and think. Maybe there is someone behind those doors that is sick and desperately needs to get to the hospital on time.
Glen did not have any bad intentions. In fact, I am grateful that he reminded me to take a break from the computer. Plus, I learned something from him thanks to our little encounter. Before you say words that cannot be taken back, I urge you, please try to consider things from a different point of view. You might just learn a thing or two about yourself in the process.