Pikachu-se Wisely

I tried to catch ’em all. I really did. For like…five days, anyway.

And I failed. But it’s not my fault! Jigglypuff’s don’t just grow on trees!

I wasn’t even planning to bother downloading the app, but there was this itch – something calling to me from decades ago. I grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s; Pokemon is in my blood.

But I simply couldn’t hang. It wasn’t the glitchy app, the threat of getting real-life mugged at a lure or my absolutely horrendous ball-throwing skills that turned me toward the exit. It was just…the time.

So much time.

Hours upon hours of wandering around the streets with my nose in my phone. Constantly tracking the greyed-out shapes of Pokemon I didn’t even recognize. I literally spent a Friday night walking the 6-ish miles from Pleasant Hill BART, across Walnut Creek to my house. I arrived at 4:30 a.m. because I was hunting Pokemon along the way.

I could feel it taking over my life, so when I had a moment of clarity last week, I took advantage and pulled the plug. But, see, that’s the thing. Besides the time commitment, Pokemon Go is really the perfect example of why technology is so damn awesome.

You’ll see posts all over the Internet advocating for less screen time and more green time. You know, “10 Reasons Why You Should Unplug and Go Camping!” I’ve written a couple myself. But I think there’s a pretty underappreciated middle ground here. Hear me out:

It’s nearly impossible to survive without technology in this day and age. But, to what extent should our devices rule our routines? Where is the line drawn between helpful utilization and total reliance?

Well…can’t it be both? Pokemon Go pretty much sums it up: you’re getting outside, walking multiple miles (to incubate hatchable Pokemon “eggs” for those who resisted the game’s urge) and meeting other gamers on the regular. I, for one, loved that I spent an entire summer night walking across town with two good friends, shooting the shit between capturing wild Pidgey’s.

I read multiple articles about how people with anxiety and depression were being forced to interact with people and move around outside, and how it was changing them in a positive way. For every person proclaiming the game “stupid,” there were dozens more who were greatly benefiting from it.

On the flip side, I stayed up until 4-freakin’-30 to play a game that offers no tangible reward. I went to “lures” set up in dark, sketchy parks hoping to catch something that would help my little monsters evolve from a two-headed ostrich to a slightly taller three-headed ostrich.

Worst of all, I began prioritizing playing Pokemon over literally everything else. Writing, work, exercise…you name it. Maybe that was just me. But if my jaunts around Civic Park lately are any indication, I’m not alone. The zombie apocalypse has hit, and Nintendo is reaping the benefits.

That’s life now. That’s where our society is at, and that’s perfectly fine. Personally, I just want to keep it as balanced as possible. Last summer, I would have been lost (literally) without my phone and its maps. I would have had no way to connect to friends and family back home when I felt lonely, if not for Skype and Google Hangouts. I would have been devastated without my cell phone’s camera, which captured all the best moments.

But I also would have hated myself if I had spent even a single day typing away in front of my screen, while texting on my little screen, before plopping down in front of the big screen to spend my evening watching How I Met Your Mother re-runs, like I used to do at home. I would have missed out on so many epic hikes and bar crawls and music festivals if I’d kept my nose in a phone for 6 months.

Obviously it’s good to unplug. Go outside, take a weekend camping without service, and maybe stop trying so hard to keep up with the Kardashian’s. Ride your bike downtown and take in the perfectly-seasoned summer nights that will be gone way too soon. Try finding cloud animals in the sky without sending someone a SnapChat about it.

But don’t feel guilty for using your phone. Being plugged in nowadays means being connected to friends, breaking news, music and podcasts. It means having everything you could ever need in the palm of your hands. It’s essential to survival and should be treated as such.

Just draw the line, and try to straddle it. Don’t realize, mid-obsession (like yours truly), while you’re Poke-hunting in a park, that the rest of the little clusters of people around you are only here to play a game on their phones, looking like droids of the future who don’t need human contact.

That’s a strange world we see depicted in sci-fi movies. It’s an unsettling direction: complete and total dependence on technology for entertainment, friendship and value.

I wanted to continue with a routine I’ve developed and enjoyed lately: wake up early, exercise, meditate, ride to the baseball field, ride home, try cooking a new recipe, write my ass off for a few hours, hang with my friends and/or parents, watch the Dodgers, and finish my night writing even more. Ironically, I ran out of time to keep up with Pokemon.

But that doesn’t mean you have to, or even should. There are a dozen reasons why you should play that incredibly addicting game and continue to use your devices. There are also a dozen reasons why you should abandon it. If you can stay productive and continue enjoying the real world all while you pwn bitches with your CP 2100 Squirtazoid, more power to you. Part of me wishes I could be you, you Ash Ketchum-cloned bastard!

For real, keep catching all the Pokemon you can find. Take advantage of an app that forces you to exercise and interact with people. Unapologetically squeeze every megabyte of good out of those iPhones that you can!

But while you’re at it, also don’t. Ya know?

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