The Myth of Being Connected

Right now, as you read this post, how wholly involved are you? Are you aware of the things that are going on around you- the drone of the TV set, the chirping of a finch on the branch outside your window, the honk of a trucker’s horn on the expressway which you can hear faintly? Would you say you are being connected to the experience of reading this post? Or would you agree that it is merely a myth and that your mind is simultaneously racing to process all the above things together with seven other tasks, one jostling the other for dominance?

The scary answer to the last question is : ‘I’m never wholly connected. I am so busy finding five things to keep me busy that I can NEVER be wholly present in the current moment.’

This article by McGuire, the founder of LibriVox, threw me so far off my equilibrium that coming back to any sense of normalcy is practically impossible. In it, he speaks of how we have become so digitally bonded to our devices that we don’t read anymore, at least not the way we should ideally read.

The  Myth of Being Connected

Think about it: If you are a blogger or a writer, what are the things that govern your writing ritual?

  1. You come up with an idea for a blog post- inspired by what you read or experienced.
  2. You sit down to write the post. Midway through it, you decide to look for a graphic that will capture the essence of your post. So you open a tab to look for the picture.
  3. You switch to a third tab which can edit the image you find.
  4. You then switch back to the writing tab and continue writing. Again, you realise that an earlier post of yours ties in so beautifully with an idea you just spoke about, so you go hunting for that to hyperlink it.
  5. You realise you need to add tags so the post can be found easily by other bloggers and search engines.
  6. Finally, you write and publish the post. But, wait, it’s not done.
  7. You then set about promoting the post on your social media channels- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram, StumbleUpon and phew! Did I miss out any?
  8. Now the waiting game begins. Your heart lights up when the notification bar pings with a light that the post was ‘liked’, ‘reblogged’ or received a comment.
  9. Your leaping heart then sets about liking the comment and replying to it. Over and over until your mind gets saturated, but you don’t stop.
  10. You nervously keep checking the stats bar after an hour or a day to see how your post has done.

This cycle repeats ad nauseum, ad infinitum until you begin to wonder why you are ever living in any world other than the digital! To me, that’s not scary, it’s terrifying!

Last night, I sat down to watch a movie on TV. It was an animated film and about 20 minutes into the film, I tried to place the voice of one of the characters. I was fairly sure it was Liam Neeson, because his voice is distinctive. Instead of waiting for the film to end or even go for a commercial break, I whipped out my phone and keyed in the movie’s name to check the star cast.

After triumphantly confirming that it was Liam Neeson, I should have put the phone down. I should have. But, no, what did I do? I scrolled to the Wikipedia entry on Neeson. From there I went to the IMDB page and checked his biography and personal trivia. Without realising it, this took me about 20 minutes! 20 minutes when I should have just been soaking in the essence of an animated movie and laughing my guts out, I was checking data on my phone!

After reading the article by Hugh McGuire last night, I literally stepped away from my phone. I looked at it the way I would look at a predator- warily and with suspicion. This thing was taking over my life! For what?

We live in an age when we think people will forget us if we are not around 24 X 7. We assume that if we don’t connect to them on a regular basis (read daily), they will begin to ignore us or worse, stop reading what we write. Nothing can be further than the truth. This blogger went off the grid a few months ago and when she came back, people welcomed her with so much love, it was heartwarming!

And so we keep blogging, writing, updating our status, sharing our photographs, tweeting, liking, ranting, venting and nodding our virtual heads along when something happens.

What does it do?

A simple, deadly dopamine boost. It gives us that boost of pleasure, the pleasure of being read, of being liked and of belonging. It’s especially difficult when you read blogs that have 189 likes for a blog post or 234 comments and you think, ‘Damn! I want that!’

It’s not wrong to have that aspiration, you know. It’s great to be read for your content. Great content deserves it. But  when you stop reading a book to update your status or interrupt a dinner conversation to reply to a tweet, I think there’s something that needs to be examined at a very core level.

The myth of being connected is just that- a myth. Don’t let the frenzy of being connected take away from the reason to stay connected. Read more, step out on the grass and feel the earth touch the soles of your feet, stand facing the morning sun and take some deep breaths, hug your children and listen to them with all your soul.

Be in the moment. That’s as connected as you need to be.