Does technology isolate us or bring us closer to people we otherwise would not know or be in touch with? Our globalized society implies that most of us cannot afford to stay in our hometowns forever. Leaving the places where we’re from comes with plenty of benefits, but also at a cost.
When we leave for better opportunities, we say goodbye to family and friends, to landscapes we’re unlikely to see for some time, to food we might not find in this new place, and, in some cases, even to our language.
Although we become part of this new scenery, we can’t help but remember our loved ones. We miss them and try to imagine how they live their everyday lives without us. Luckily, innovations in communication technology have helped us remain connected to those people who are on our minds.
Chan Jae Lee left Korea 35 years ago. He lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil with his wife. Until recently, his daughter still lived there with her husband and two children. But then they had to move to South Korea. His other son lives in New York and also has a child. Chan Jae missed his children and grandchildren a great deal. So in an effort to help his parents have a relationship with their family scattered through the world, their son suggested they start an Instagram account where Chan Jae could post drawings to his grandchildren.
This story is a beautiful example of how technology does not always mean isolation and separation from the world. Chan Jae is not only sharing these drawings with his family; he has 250 thousand followers to date who wait for his next work.
What’s amazing is how the images are not just about random moments he and his wife experience. There are references to news articles and political situations all over the world. In the commentary there are questions made to the children about their opinion on those matters. It’s a conversation we witness between grandparents and grandchildren about the planet around them.
If the Instagram account were simply pretty pictures, people would sure still be interested. But to have that extra taste of intergenerational dialogue gives it a new perspective. It’s not just Chan Jae’s family that lives across the globe and speaks different languages.
More and more people have to leave their towns, regions, and countries for better work opportunities, in search for more peaceful environments, and or just to be able to practice their religion freely. But these situations come with a heartbreaking choice: how can you continue to follow your traditions in a foreign land? How do you keep the future generations from forgetting their roots?
One answer could lie in Chan Jae Lee’s drawings. Interaction, conversation, stories, and art can be ways for the newer generations to continue to have a connection to their past. In this way technology can aid families in knowing their history, regardless of where life has taken them, instead of simply being the iPad children are given so they can behave at the restaurant.
We need to learn how to use technology to our advantage rather than to have it take over their lives. In this last way, we forgo becoming the isolated, machine-like creatures that are often compared to when talking about our current society.
You can check out Chan Jae Lee's artwork on his Instagram.