Technology allows us to be more connected, more in touch with what’s going on in our communities, and it enables us to reach beyond our wildest dreams in terms of connections; there’s also a dark side. With this incredible connection comes an inevitable disconnection. This may sound ironic coming from me, the New Media Manager, but stick with this, I promise you, it’s relevant.
How many of us have a few hundred or a few thousand followers and connections across several social media platforms, whose lives we “know” and “touch” on a daily basis? Most of us do. In fact, if someone says they don’t have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account, we find ourselves at a loss for words. Let’s be honest, technology is a wonderful tool: it gets a message out there in a way that analog marketing couldn’t. One post can reach thousands of people at the press of a button. The fingers of the Internet and social media mavens are long and far-reaching. It’s phenomenal, to tell you the truth. The current technological age is monumental.
So what’s the catch?
As we have become more plugged in and more connected, we have subsequently become disconnected. Text messaging has become the primary means of communication for many, because it’s fast, convenient, and it takes away the discomfort of confrontation. It’s much easier to dump someone via text, or tell someone off via text, or give someone bad news via text…isn’t it? In a sense, but it’s deeply impersonal and detached. We have deluded ourselves into believing we are “safe” behind our smart phones and computers. I have seen teens in coffee shops hanging out and texting to each other in lieu of having a real conversation: Eyes on the iPhone, rather than on each other. Conversations seem to happen technologically rather than face-to-face, which is, in this case, a disservice. Talking to each other is an invaluable way in which to connect, and making eye contact is part and parcel to that connection.
I realized I was doing some of this myself. I was disconnected to the people trying to talk to me in real time, because I was too busy staying “connected” in tech time. This is a problem. So I made a decision. I decided to unplug when I am sitting with people, and chose to engage with and be present for the people I’m with. Texts and the like could wait. As a result, I find myself less stressed out, less anxious, and more connected with the present moment.
Where do we go from here?
First of all, technology is here to stay. It’s incredible. I couldn’t do my job without it. There are outlets like Skype and Google Chat, which allow us to stay connected with family, friends and co-workers that are not geographically close. Social media provides a global connection. These tools are invaluable.
To me, the solution is to use these tools wisely and consciously. We can choose to unplug at:
- With our family
- With our friends
- While we’re driving
We can pick up the phone to share pertinent information with those in our lives. Yes, even the uncomfortable stuff. Confrontation is tough, but so is being on the receiving end of a terse or insensitive text message. I write all the time and am enamored with words, but it’s more authentic and heart based for me to directly communicate significant information. I recently received a text message in text lingo telling me a distant uncle had passed. I was more jarred by the transmission of the information than the loss. It was clear to me that using that form of communication for that type of information had desensitized my reaction.
I encourage you to unplug incrementally: be present at dinner, with your friends, and with your family. Technology isn’t going anywhere. It will await you in all of its magnificence when you return. That’s the beauty of it.