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 statsΒ 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 Β 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.

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58 thoughts on “The Myth of Being Connected

  1. I can relate to this post. I think we all can. It the story of our lives. I used to have wifi on my phone all the time. When I stepped out of my house, the data plan was switched on automatically. It is what I preferred. This way, I was able to respond to every like/tweet/share instantly. It felt great. However, I lost out on time with friends and family and missed really being in the moment. I loved your ending note. *Be in the moment. That’s as connected as you need to be.
    Thank you for the much needed reminder. πŸ™‚

    1. Yep. Nowadays I turn off the Wi-Fi on my phone especially when I am at the laptop. It doesn’t make sense for me to have pop up notifications when I am working on something else. Similarly, I turn on data when I am outside home, only if I need to use Maps for navigation or coordinate with someone over Whatsapp.

  2. That are the cons of being connected 24×7 isn’t it? Even I have this habit of going over to wikipedia or checking up with Google between a good movie or while watching TV.

    In my case, it’s just this quest to find more information about anything and everything all the time that drives me to look around. But again while blogging, I always strive to keep my concentration until I finish the post.

    1. Very commendable on the focused blogging, Aseem. I think that is the hallmark of a successful writer. Again, stats don’t do justice to most good writers, sadly. But, let’s just write, shall we? I am sure the satisfaction makes up for any other lacking πŸ™‚

  3. When I write I just write, I won’t usually get distracted while writing. It is in fact the other way around for me, writing is a distraction from the normal activities. πŸ™‚ Otherwise I am a heavy multi-tasker who is trying to get out of the multi-tasking syndrome. I am consciously pulling myself to concentrate but most of the times in vain. I understand this myth called connected you are talking about. We live this myth on a regular basis πŸ™‚

  4. I liked reading this.. I’m terrified when I stop in the middle of a good book to tweet or post about it.. The first time it happened.. Phew! Trying to consciously avoid it now!:)

  5. very, very well said!! Sometimes I do feel like I have some kind of attention deficit disorder because I get easily distracted!
    I’d like to say that I don’t get distracted while writing the post, but I definitely do promote it and wait for the notifications!! Really silly! πŸ˜€

    1. It’s not really silly, Roshni, because we write to be read, most often πŸ™‚ When I let the notifications overwhelm me, that’s where the problems start. But, hopefully, I have tried to break free of this vicious cycle.

  6. I think we all have too much on our plates! Personally, I like to “unplug” once in a while, and have days where I don’t even go on the computer.

  7. That imdb bit… I do that. A lot. In the middle of having lunch! My Dad often threatens he’ll throw my phone away. Never gets around to doing it though.
    I tend to go offline though whenever I see signs of becoming an addict to social media. If I can’t moderate it, I just take a break completely. It works.

    1. Yes, exactly what I do. Of late though, I switch off and focus on ‘one thing at a time’. I just cannot multi-task and expect the output to be of the highest calibre. So, if I am writing a post, I do only that. Nothing else. Similarly, if I am on social media, engaging with others, I focus on that and don’t read articles or check blogs. It seems to be helping.

  8. Yes, yes and yes. One of the reasons (yes there were a few others) why I didn’t do the A-Z challenge this time around was because I wanted to avoid all the un-necessary mental noise and chaos that comes with the experience. I know I am not immune and self-disciplined enough to avoid all that, esp. if I was participating in a month long day-in-day-out exercise of blogging, reading blogs, commenting, replying, etc…followed by the same thing the next day.

    Lately I am also trying to be a bit more selective about what I want to write for my blog, how I want to write and what I want to avoid – regardless of what may be more ‘politically correct’ or ‘socially acceptable’. I am increasingly becoming more aware of the fact that I started blogging because of my interest in writing (and writing for some specific purpose), and not the other way round. Because I literally see bloggers writing only because they have to blog! I think it is an important difference. At least to my mind it seems like an important point to remember. I have become more at peace with having fewer readers, fewer comments to deal with on my blog, now that I am generally writing only once a week, which means I am ‘less’ in circulation πŸ™‚ And yes I am also learning how to ‘detach’ from the blog, not always easy but something that is a must, in my view. My time spent on social media has also become more focused, I am learning how to avoid what I think as frivolous and spend more time reading up on topics that interest me, which may or may not have anything to do with the world of blogging, but simply because they help me understand some things better…

    We all have to do what we need to do if we don’t want to become a slave to all this digital stuff….I am not the one to say which is the right thing to do, we all must figure out our own escape routes πŸ™‚ Thanks for this important post, an important reminder to wake up before it is too late!

    1. Beloo, I SO agree with you on these points and have pondered this for myself, wondering if in fact I should have participated in the challenge. However, I decided to this one time to challenge my writing at best tying it with my blog theme. I hear you and honour you for being courageous to stand your ground and not be “socially acceptable.” Thank you for your example! πŸ™‚ <3

    2. Beloo, our thoughts align on a lot of things and you know that already πŸ™‚ There was a point of time when i actually pondered not doing the A-Z. The only reason i did it was because it would give me the much needed release from certain private matters that would have weighed me down with their load.

      Reading that article I’ve mentioned has been timely and like all things, everything has its time and place. If I’d read it during April, that would have killed my A-Z momentum. Glad that didn’t happen.

      I think when our hearts and minds are ready for change, change will seek us out. An article, a news piece, a Facebook post anything can be the catalyst. If we’re evolving on this path and working towards a Zen concept we must be open to all experiences. Hopefully I’m doing that πŸ™‚

  9. I think it’s dangerous that some people feel like they CAN’T take a break from technology and enjoy the world, but also technology enables me to do what I love–write and share my writing. I’m doing a real thing and learning real things and about real people, and just because I access those virtually doesn’t mean I’m disconnected from reality.

    1. Technology does that to a lot of people. It’s a sad fact. As much as I love blogging, I realise I love talking to people face to face. I love the verbal, visual cues that bounce off them like the sun’s rays and I can capture them and respond accordingly. Screen interactions are severely limiting, don’t you agree? A joke can be taken the wrong way, a serious comment can be dismissed, anything can happen.

      1. That’s true, you can miss a lot of information by communicating by text only. That said, there’s also a deeper level that comes along with sharing yourself online. For instance, my real life friends very rarely see my photography, but I share that craft with people online. They know another whole side of me–my creative side.

        1. Oh, I am not knocking Tech. No way! I mean, some of the best connections I have made, both online and then offline are through my social media connections πŸ™‚ The creative side, like you said, is appreciated a whole lot more by like-minded creative people. Bloggers need bloggers, am I right? πŸ˜‰ Just looking at striking a balance in this whole thing πŸ™‚

  10. Oh man, I am guilty of so many of those offenses! It actually made me laugh to think about how wrapped up in that stuff I get, and then don’t even have a post to put out as a result of it. It really is madness.

    “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?”

    That’s exactly what I kept asking myself prior to my departure. What is this doing for me? How is contributing to my real happiness? I was wrapped up in my virtual world I forgot to live in my real one.

    Great post πŸ™‚

  11. This really speaks to me. My level of concentration is SO not what it should be, and I am always multi-tasking with many, many tabs open, working in one while I’m waiting for another to load! I need to work on achieving some balance – thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks Laurel! Coming from you, whom I consider a paragon of blogging and an admirable blogger, that means a good deal. I just know that this multi-tasking cannot be good for the brain, for our concentration, for our attention to detail and for our attentiveness to the people and the world around us. Let me know how it goes, the effort at cutting back on multi tasking πŸ™‚

  12. I’ve still not gotten around to reading that post you mentioned but I get the gist of the article.

    Yes, we live in a world that sort of gives us a false sense of being connected. Just like most of you, I too have been there, done that, and got the proverbial t-shirt.

    Having said that, these days I try and reduce my time online. Because I’m now involved in a ‘career’ – if you can call it that – that requires some amount of networking and visibility, I don’t think I’ll be at that point where I can decide to go offline or incommunicado for say like a month or two. Others might be able to – for now, I can’t.

    I suppose, just like everything else in life, it helps to have a schedule to monitor your online activity. These days, if I’m out with friends or family or reading anything – I don’t check my emails or Facebook or even the blog.

    As for the multiple tabs and interlinking – since I do fiction quite a lot – I don’t tend to do all that; but when I’m writing, I do stay offline from social media and email too.

    1. Agree with it all Sid. I agree that we need some amount of networking and visibility since our work demands it. We need to be interactive and engaged with people without getting sucked into the vortex of addiction that screen time does to our senses.

      I do the multiple tabs and interlinking especially for my creative Non fiction posts like this one or the introspective ones such as the Mom Blog one.

      But, of late, I have restricted myself to ONE tab at a time. This applies to replying to comments, checking e-mail and reading articles online. The idea that there is no blinking tab in the background is so relaxing πŸ™‚

  13. Yes, this is me. Sorry to say that the digital, connected world has got me in a vice… I try not to let it but perhaps inevitably, it does… I suppose that’s what comes from blogging/writing/blogging/writing. And so the cycle continues…

  14. What goes up has to come down is true. This net addiction hold true only in a certain phase of life and I have gone through the pangs of this addiction. Like the downward slope I have now ‘stabilised ‘ and not so keen on the statistics of likes and comments.

  15. That’s so true Shailaja and you are right when you are say we think we are connected but in the essence we are getting disconnected. Just to try it out, when I was reading your post, I did not jump on the FB notifications or the tweets or hovered on any other tab on chrome. I just stayed put on the post – word by word till the end and yes, it felt good πŸ™‚
    Great post and loved the message there!!

    1. Parul, I am so glad to hear it. I am currently on a digital detox programme, a self-imposed one. I am trying to check my phone only three times and for a total of 30 minutes in an entire day. Day 1 flopped but Day 2 was very good! I am hoping that I will wean myself off this social media addiction gradually and effectively as the days and weeks pass πŸ™‚

      1. All the best! would love to read how it goes. It’s hard for me to go on a detox but I consciously do things like put phone on silent, close FB etc. to focus on tasks. Earlier while we were growing up, there was just TV, imagine what all the children of today must be going through in terms of distraction! :-/

  16. For me it is the other way round – all the way. I can never concentrate on my online activities without getting distracted by something in real time that I need to do. The clothes to be put to wash, look up the neighbour who is unwell, find out if my friend is coming with me to the weekly santhai, make that sambar powder which is over…..At the most, I might think to call up or mail a friend with whom I have not connected for a while. Ironically, this was not so when there was no social media, when I would sit and complete some writing or reading that I was doing. Go figure πŸ˜€

    And yes, it is scary to see how people are glued to their gadgets to the exclusion of everything and everyone in real time. I even find listening to music while walking in the park unnecessary. While it is a positive traffic hazard if you are walking on the road, why shut out the sounds of the birds, gurgling water and other natural sounds?

    I have successfully resisted the lure of WhatsApp till date as I think it is not necessary to be so perpetually connected with even the closest of our relatives and friends. As for disconnecting from the blog, Rachna is my guru to a great extent πŸ™‚

  17. //”at least not the way we should ideally read.”//
    News to me that there is an *ideal* way to read. Wonder who decided what the *ideal* is and how, that too for a sea of humanity, each member of it different from the other! πŸ™‚

    1. There is no perfect ideal way to read, I agree. In the context of McGuire’s post, he mentions that he is unable to read more than three sentences at a time without taking a break to check his phone. That’s what I meant, not in the way that one way of reading is better than another. Apologies if that wasn’t clear.

  18. While reading this I felt like I was reading about myself. The points you said what exactly happens when I am trying to blog. I sometimes think that digital world and multitasking has taken fun out of finer things in life.

  19. Sometimes a blog post just flows through but sometimes it’s exactly like you described – specially when I’m pushing myself to write. The multiple tabs open up and it gets quite crazy. As for social media I spend very little time promoting my posts but I do enjoy sharing in the personal bits about friends and family. That keeps me connected. And then there are days I just don’t feel like connecting with certain people and so I don’t. Of course it makes me seem temperamental but that’s fine. I rarely do the obligatory ‘like and comment’ business. During films I like having information readily available or else I’d obsess about it and not enjoy the film in any case! I have to admit, though that keeping ourselves focussed is something we need to inculcate consciously in ourselves.

    1. Yes. Staying focused is key here and with multimedia overload, it gets frankly difficult at times. Social media can be a drug, a dangerous one, if I’m not careful. I’m not ashamed to admit the fact that i spend too much time online. I’m equally willing to do my bit to change it though.

  20. That is so definitely me!
    In between movies, I regularly check to see where I know this person from, carrying on to read the entire WIKI article and then clicking the links within to add more trivia… I get lost totally in it.
    Similarly, in blogging, the words are just a part of it now, isn’t it?
    So much more to get the words read…

  21. I don’t know how to edit photos or don’t think to, but other than that I am relatively ‘guilty’ of the other points! πŸ˜‰ However, I have an older cellphone and refuse for now – hopefully from now on too πŸ˜‰ – to connect to internet as I can see how distracting and addictive it can be(come). Interesting re. books as lately I have been wanting to read and instead I go to the computer to check email, write and/or read blog posts, and the like. Though of course it would be great to receive more blog fans, I don’t wish it to be astronomical as I am making an effort to get outside more; however, a laptop or the like can go outside too (which is why I am considering purchasing one, i.e., so I’m not always inside!) πŸ˜‰ <3

  22. I think this is never going away. I have told you this many times directly, but I have understood that social media engagement is not really that important that people spend inordinate amount of time on it to ‘promote’ their posts. I have personally completely reduced the time I spend on FB. And, I would like to do it further. I have been blogging for many years now, and I used to get my maximum comments at a time when I had no social media accounts. Hence, perspective is very important. About the blog post thing, like Vinay above, I don’t stay online to check for comments or obsess over stats. Yes, I love comments but I take my time to reply to chunks. I have never held it against friends if they did not read or comment some post of mine. Like me they have a life and time constraints. I know they will come back and read when they find time or not. Following these simple steps actually makes things easier for us. As a rule, when I work, I am off all social networks. And on my phone, the WiFi is always switched off unless I switch it on to check something. I hope these tips can help someone find better balance. A lovely post!

    1. Agree Rachna. This is primarily for me to focus more on my reading. I’ve realised that being brutally honest about it is the only way forward. I’m grateful for people who read and i admire those who can do it all, but i realise i cannot. Not anymore. Thanks guys reading and for the support πŸ™‚

  23. OK. Let’s see.

    I relate to point 1. I rarely use graphics, so I skip 2 and 3. I don’t hyperlink old posts usually, so 4 is skipped too. 5 and 6 is done. I’m lazy, so 7 is mostly skipped too. I don’t very anxiously check for comments every time or keep the notification bar open so 8 is not applicable. I reply to my comments, but very late sometimes. so 9 and 10 is not very applicable either πŸ™‚

    I don’t live in my blog. I live in words, yes, but not in a blog where each step matters and repeats πŸ™‚ Looking at people who get a lot of comments and likes, I want that too, but not at the cost of a book or anything. I’m glad that I don’t do that.

    1. Very glad to hear you’re immune, Vinay. I’m not and I’ve realized that admitting to it honestly, to myself is the first step to correction. Much like my yelling less challenge, i need to face it head on. I’m not ashamed to look at my faults because i believe they strengthen me.

  24. Shailaja, that’s everybody’s story today. And, I think we all do realise where we are going wrong, but, it’s just that we have gone so deep inside this vicious circle, that try as we may, we aren’t able to get out of it. I really think we need to make serious efforts to get out and smell the air, feel the grass and ‘connect’ with ourselves and our immediate surroundings.
    Loved reading it (yes, there were a couple of things distracting me, but, I pulled myself back to it) and I guess I AM going to make some changes in myself. Beginning today!
    Thank you for this great post! <3

    1. I’ll be honest, Shilpa. This is something I’ve been noticing about myself for a while and I’ve been ignoring it. I was the classic addict- at the denial stage. Knowing it’s true and committing to a solution has worked for me in the past. Hoping I’ll get to strike a balance soon and sustain it. Thanks for reading.

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