Technology keeps us at home while pushing us away at the same time
What do E.T., Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Home Depot have in common? They’re all obsessed with home—phoning it, finding it, filling it. But what makes home, ‘home?’ The University of the Streets Café hosted a forum to discuss this topic.
At 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night, cups of tea and coffee covered the tables at Café l’Artère, where the air was heavy with Indian, Brazilian and Australian accents.
“By a show of hands, who is from somewhere other than Montreal?” asked Susan Edey, the first speaker.
She didn’t need to count—everybody had raised their hands. “And how many of you call Montreal home?” Half the hands vanished.
Draped in black from head to toe, Edey’s smile spread across the room as she explained how technology has eased her move from Edmonton. “Whenever I’m feeling down, I can just call my mum, and if I don’t have plans on a Friday night, I can just have a Skype-date with my best friend back home,” she said.
Today, technology has evolved into the platonic lover’s dream, we’re forever in touch—while never having to touch. And technology refuses to let go. In 2000, when J.K. Rowling wrote of Sirius Black’s face appearing to Harry Potter in the fireplace, it was magic. Now at the touch of a button, our smartphones can do the same—and in higher definition.
A product of a generation prior to such magical technology, the second speaker, Patrick McKenna, was forced to flee Belfast in 1975 when bombings and shootings scarred the face of a nation. “For me, it took 30 years for Montreal to become home,” he said, with an Irish lilt that speckled his sentences. “I knew it was home when I returned to Belfast and I was looking with my eyes, instead of my heart.”
While technology helps us relocate physically, emotionally it can burden us. We get a false sense of home through slices of Snapchat and bites of FaceTime.
Throughout the discussion, one thing became clear: home is wherever we feel connected to others.
Prolonged disconnection wreaks havoc. In 2014, Michael Bond wrote an article for the BBC about the distressing effects of social isolation on the mind, ranging from mental instability to hallucinations.
Isolation can make us do some truly bizarre things. If you need more evidence, just look at Tom Hanks in Castaway and his unorthodox but understandable relationship with his volleyball, Wilson. I’m sure Snapchat keeps them close.
We insist that apps like Snapchat do keep us close, but our desire to be constantly connected with wherever we’re not slows our search for a home wherever we are. Edey ended the night explaining how she knows Montreal has finally become home for her. “I’m starting to read Le Devoir, instead of the Edmonton [Journal].”