by Cathy Cooke, BCHN, BBEC
When I was kid growing up in the ‘70s, I remember creating elaborate stories in my head about far away lands I’d only heard of in books. I remember playing in the woods in our backyard and pretending to be a soldier in the army – more specifically, being the first woman ever drafted into the army because my skills were so imperative the Corps’ success. I had the most amazing journeys to places like China, Africa, the deserts of Saudi Arabia, all without leaving my backyard.
Fast forward to May of 2000, and I was still enjoying adventures to exotic places. Four years after graduating college, I was dreaming of joining the Peace Corps and imagined myself living among the villages in places like Kenya or Angola. I could picture it in my head: the dirt floors, the thatched roofs, the smells of Injera cooking on a wood stove. I don’t know if that’s how it really was, but it was fun to pretend. Maybe it was demeaning or naïve, I don’t know, but my imagination was strong and the creative urge inside me was fulfilled.
Over the next few years, I found myself becoming more involved with emails and looking up information online. If I really wanted to know what life was like in Kenya, I just put it into a search engine, and wham, there it was. And no surprise, it wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined. Instead of debating for hours with friends about a particular topic, exercising my mind to see different points of view, employing creativity to construct a new argument for persuasion, or trying to use my brains flexibility to understand all sides, we’d simply look it up online, and the conversation was over. No heated debates into the wee hours of the morning that often left us with a better understanding of the other side and agreed upon points of view.
It makes me sad really. I want my brain to engage, to work, to be flexible and creative in these conversations and daydreams. But it doesn’t happen anymore. I don’t have to imagine, or think, or create, because I can just Google it, and that ends the experience.
I have found the same to be true for my artistic abilities. I have always enjoyed doing crafty and artsy things. In the early 2000s, I took up mosaics. I remember walking outside for inspiration, looking into street-corner shops, in backyards where children played, on the nearby trails or at the plethora of activity happening in the trees and sky. Certain colors and combinations of shapes would send my mind off to a place of wild creativity… “what if I combined that purple color with a deep red for an intense October sunset…” I made some really unusual but pretty cool mosaics back then. But with the advent of Google, I found myself looking online for ideas; it was easier than going outside. And do you know what happened? My mosaics looked flat, lifeless, or like I was imitating someone else, mostly because I was. I was no longer exercising my creativity, because it was just too easy to look online.
This also makes me very sad. It makes me sad for myself that I turn to the easy way too often, and thus, miss out on all the amazing things the natural world has to offer. And it makes me sad for all the youth that never got the chance to imagine, create, or dream about what life is like in the Amazon or the South Pole. They’ve never had a chance because the answers have been in front of them the whole time. What kind of art will these kids create? What kind of stories will they make up? Where will they get their inspiration?
I have been known to say “If I could snap my fingers and the Internet would have never existed I would do it without flinching.” I mean that with complete conviction. Not only do I have an issue with the health impacts (EMF exposure, blue light, bad posture, poor social development), but also because it killed my creativity. I know I have the power to remedy this. You’re right, I could just get off the computer and go outside and find my inspiration again. The problem is that in today’s high-tech world, we have come to rely on the Internet for the large majority of our communication, personal and business transactions. I run a small business, and if I want that business to be successful, I have to be online a good portion of the day. I don’t want it to be that way, but it’s the unfortunate reality of living in 2019.
Of course, I do admit to the benefits of the web, increased access to education and information, entertainment, social connections, etc. But, is that worth what we have lost? Not a chance. I am a human being with needs that go beyond food and shelter. I don’t need to see pictures of what Angola looks like. I don’t need to connect with all ten of my friends from the 1st grade again. I don’t need to be able to watch a marathon of “Mad Men” on Netflix this weekend. But what I do need is my sanity, feeling fulfilled, and nourished. The Internet does not provide this for me. My daydreams, imagination, friendly debates, walks in nature and exercising my brain’s creativity, that’s what fulfills me and nourishes me.
So yes, if I could, I would snap my fingers and the Internet would disappear. And then I would have my exotic trips to far away lands, conversations until the wee hours of the morning, and some fantastic mosaics that are full of unique imagination. It would give me back my creativity! And that would be worth it.
Cathy Cooke BCHN, BBEC, is the owner of Whole Home and Body Health where she helps people to realize their potential through health interventions related to diet, lifestyle, and environmental concerns including air quality and EMF mitigation. You can find out more about her services at wholehomeandbodyhealth.com, or by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org