Loneliness In The Modern World – Part Two
Part Two – Walls That Masquerade as Connection
One of the main goals of technology has always been to make our connection to one another more accessible, yet why do most of us feel less connected than ever? In fact, devices and methods that were meant to build connection have actually become walls that stand in the way of connection.
Texting is fantastic until you get that one text with possible implied meaning. Our first move to gain clarity is to text more and that lands us in more trouble. When the clear communication waters begin to muddy, the last thing we should do to clear them is the same thing that got us there in the first place! A text is a one-dimensional piece of information that can cause confusion when used for more than the exchange of logistical information.
The challenge with texting, social media, shopping through a computer, and other forms of efficient technology is the lack of the human element. Anything that lacks the human element has the potential to become a wall in our life.
We are fascinated with people who hoard belongings. At some point, they rarely leave their house to collect more stuff. Instead, they order items through the internet or phone. The belongings that fill their home become physical walls that turn into emotional walls that convince them to stay put. Their family and friends report at some point there was a shift towards all the belongings becoming more important than the people in their lives.
Technology in the form of devices, social media, and convenience have become a similar wall for most of us to some degree. We may not have a house stuffed to the roof with items we don’t need, but ask us to stop glancing at our phones or checking our Instagram feed every five minutes, NO WAY! That is an unreasonable request for most of us to consider. For those of us who don’t hoard physical items, we watch the story about the person who does in horrified fascination with a side of judgment. We ask how could this possibly happen and then grab our phone or tablet to look up hoarding instead of having a lively discussion with a real person. Hmm, is there a pot in the room calling the kettle silver? YES! The parallels of hoarding items and getting lost in technology are obvious, but we miss them completely.
We miss the parallels because making technology and social media a priority over face-to-face time with people is socially acceptable. We all do it, so it must be fine. Few of us hoard physical items, so that behavior is socially unacceptable. However, the irony in all of this is both behaviors lead to walls that seem like connection.
People who hoard will tell you they do it because if they let go of something, they might lose a connection with someone they love. For them the item evokes a warm memory or represents their connection and now their loved one has passed. While those reasons are understandable, eventually holding onto an item versus a person leads to building a wall between you and the very person to whom you were trying to stay connected.
We cross that same line when we sit at a restaurant with friends or family and look at our phones instead of talking with one another. The opportunity for connection is right in front of us, and our tool for connection—the almighty phone—becomes the wall when we give all our energy and attention to it instead of the precious ones around us. Whatever is on our phones can wait through a meal. We can’t always restore a connection with a loved one once it is broken.
Let’s not throw out technology altogether. Instead, let’s put technology in its place. Technology is meant to support connection and relationships. Start small and let the ripple effect take you towards a healthier relationship with technology and deeper relationships with those you love. Disconnecting from your phone is a great place to begin, yet it can also feel like being naked in front of strangers. If the suggestions for how to disconnect from your phone feel like you could die if you try it, ask yourself ‘what is the worst that could happen if I step away for a bit?’. This is an intense internal process for most of us, so take it slow and be gentle with yourself when it is challenging.
Begin by putting your phone out of reach at meals. Build towards turning your phone to silent or off at a certain time each evening. Consider checking your phone only a few times per day, as it will let you know if it needs you! Have a tech-free day once a month and work on moving towards once a week. Go on vacation without your screens. Wherever you choose to begin, replace that technology time with face-to-face people time.
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