Eternally Connected: How Technology Disconnects You From Yourself

Eternally Connected: How Technology Disconnects You From Yourself

I’m good at Multi-tasking“, has become a modern euphemism for “Delusions have made my carelessness measurable.

Last year I made the hard decision of purchasing my first smart phone. The Pros ended up out-weighting the Cons, like having something better to read while seated on the toilet other than shampoo bottle instructions. But deep down, I knew I was giving up something invaluable the moment I bought it; my space for tranquility and depth of thought in solitude.

In the 1980’s, futurist Alvin Toffler coined the term “Information Overload” in his book Future Shock predicting where technology was heading in our society. According to a San Diego University study, the average American citizen today is bombarded with 100,500 words and digests around 12 hours of information and media every single day.

And if you think about it, 12 hours isn’t so much of an exaggeration. With notifications, emails, texts, voicemails, “likes”, instagram pictures and tweets, comments, tags and posts, as well as,  photos, videos, headlines, blogs,  subscriptions, downloads, uploads,ads, ringtones, mp3’s, apps, games, usernames, passwords, captchas, folders, files, feeds, searches and poke’s … it’s hardly surprising why we’re always so busy.

Saturate My Senses

We live in an extrospective society, one that thinks happiness is found in the outside world.  We tend to believe wholeheartedly that the more we cram every living moment with outside sources of enjoyment, excitement and pleasure, the more we we’re living.

Life is often thought in outward terms, as a series of events that unfolds in the physical world that we all inhabit.  However, we experience all these events that happen in life inwardly through our thoughts and feelings.  This is the reality for each of us.

We are the surround-sound generation with 1,000 channels.  We want to feel everything all the time.  A walk through the park isn’t just a walk anymore, it’s a music concerto with our ipod, while feasting on a burger, and a work-out as well, with our electronic heart-monitors, all while admiring the passing carnival of humanity.

Creativity and thought has become subservient to the singular ambition of saturating our senses.  Stimulation has become the new world order.  Depth of focus is obsolete.

It’s Not The Quantity, But The Depth

The irony of our times is that we have more “friends” and know more about their activities and interests than ever … by spending less time with them.

We are also more than ever proficient through technology.  But we achieve much more by superficially immersing ourselves in every activity we do, by dividing our attention and focus.  Take me as an example.  During the writing of this article I’ve digressed in checking my emails, watching 5 videos, buying a book and learning that Google is planning to set up a free global WiFi network!

When I go out on walks I don’t feel that peacefulness and thrill of solitude anymore.  I come across a beautiful bird and immediately I feel like “possessing” that moment for later.  I pull out my phone to take a photo, and begin to feel the anxiety that any sudden movements might frighten it away.  I give up the chance of being entirely and absorbingly present in that moment, in exchange for the anxiety of admiring a photo of it in the future.

I continue my walk and feel my phone vibrating.  It’s a notification that either someone has recommended a movie to me, or I received a comment or “like” online, I have an overdue bill, someone just had a baby, a tsunami just killed hundreds in South Asia, or my uncle is getting a Colonoscopy.  Perhaps you have realized this before, but all of these distractions are impediments to the ability to immerse ourselves in each place we find ourselves in.

But worst of all, technology takes away from us the one thing we require the most for depth of thought and creativity: aloneness.  I’ve felt so many times as though I’m taking the whole world with me when I carry my phone.  There’s never any time or space away from our daily business anymore.

Respite From Technology

The other day I saw a man talking in a public phone booth. It is such a rare thing that all I could assume was that he was being told where to drop off the ransom money.

We keep upgrading software and finding faster ways to download.  Unknowingly, as we increase the intensity of our ties to other people we are cementing the bars to our own technological prisons.  The more connected we are, the more we depend on the world outside ourselves to tell us how to think and live.

The more we depend on technology and live our lives absorbed in it’s brightly alluring screens, the more fearful we become as well.  Just think of all the hundreds of stories of murders, suicides, rapes, mass casualties, abuses, tortures and other horrific stories that we let into our lounge rooms and bedrooms on a daily basis.  All of this violence takes it’s toll on us.

It’s easy to blame all this on all of our tools.  I’m not trying to say that technology is the spawn of Satan – technology makes our lives much more convenient and pleasurable.  It’s not technology that is at fault, instead, everything began with the simple goal of keeping “in touch” with everything and everyone.  With our constant desire for extrospective stimulation we’ve turned that into “never being out of touch”, making our every day feel more frantic and rushed.

This need to “never be out of touch” has been attributed by psychologists, to conditions like attention deficit disorder.  It has been the cause of Nomophobia, which is “the fear of being out of mobile phone contact”.  The need to never be out of touch is so great, that around the world rehabilitation centres have been opened for technologically addicted children.

In my opinion, creativity and depth of thought has highly been affected by the need to never be out of touch as well.   Just look at modern day children, supposedly the most creative beings there are.  They rarely go on lavish imaginary adventures anymore, or sit down to make figurines out of popsicle sticks, or make their own hand-drawn comic books.  To them, as well as us, reality seems too silent, too frustratingly inert and non-interactive. The sense of wonder and mystery is being lost.

Sure, many solutions have been proposed . There’s software like Inbox Pause that puts your messages on hold.  There are other services that limit the amount of time you spend online, or block every ad and piece of jargon around the contents of a webpage.

But the more we connect through technology, the more our thoughts lean outwards.  What makes life meaningful is your inner feelings, your passions, your dreams and to cultivate those you require introspection, deep mental focus and self-discovery.

Technology brings the burden that anyone, any information, anywhere is always within reach. This makes you feel that you should be taking advantage of all the information, and that you should fill your time with as much stimulation as you can.

I hope some of you feel a desire to be away from the tumult of the technological crowd the same way I do.  In order to fully enjoy technology, it would be a wise idea to learn to cultivate time disconnected away from the eternal cyber buzz around us.

If there’s anything that I’ve learnt, it’s that only when you learn to be comfortable with your solitude, without the need of stimulation, will you become inwardly content.  When you drop the need for others and other things to stimulate you, you can then develop the ability to think of other people with more care and interest. It’s not about what they can provide for you anymore.  In the comfort of your aloneness, you can ask yourself instead: What can I provide them?

Try taking some time out to put some space between yourself and the cyber crowd, otherwise you might get lost in the Technological Labyrinth.

Photo by: Alexander Rentsch

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  • laxie15

    I have already noticed a disconnect in how I and others communicate with each other. I am trying to get off of the various social medias as well as trying to limit texting or not texting at dinners, in class, etc.

  • http://www.stlouisguitarlessons.net Chuck

    Really great post… Just this morning I was talking to a friend who is having problems with stress and anxiety. She keeps saying how “my phone is my lifeline” and how she can’t turn it off because she needs to “be there” for this person and that person… when I suggested she turn it off so that she could be present for herself and find a bit of solitude she admitted to feeling physical panic at the thought. We are allowing other people and entities like work to become more and more invasive, and we have less and less to offer those closest to us as a result. We have less and less to offer ourselves, and we are truly living less and less.

    I hate going to concerts these days…because I can’t help getting frustrated by all those around me watching the action on their tiny cellphone display while the artist they paid good money to see is live in the flesh right in front of them. How much attention can they really be paying to the music when they are constantly fooling around with their phone and uploading things to Facebook?????

    The worst part about it all is that we are doing it willingly… and we are imposing this madness on our children.

    • http://lonerwolf.com/sol Mateo Sol

      Hola Chuck,

      I can understand your frustration. I look on at the unfolding technological madness and I am constantly at awe. Children who can’t even talk are already playing games on their parents iPads. I have heard of technology addiction rehabs in Japan.

      I think this is something that will require a big shock to wake people up and change their perspective of how they should use technology and when it is appropriate.

      All we can do at the moment is try to raise awareness, to encourage mindful present moment living and find moments of solitude to be present with our own company and nothing else.

      Together, we should all be able to slowly make a difference.

  • Matthew

    I was looking for how people in modern society have “disconnected from society” and self indulged in technology as a way to have “personal space” yet indirectly cause more harm than good. So I typed in my google bar the moment I thought of it, it was “technology and the disconnection from reality”. Now here I am. I mention it in this post because not only is it true that we have in a sense forced ourselves to be consistently saturate with information, but the fact that I am doing a research project on technology and it’s effect on health, and I am the last person to hand in my paper, and the only person of my class mates to talk about the mental effects. The whole class is talking about how it affects physical health! Wheres the creativity in the research, a project, even a painting anymore?
    This article has brought me a lot of understand and ideas on what our problem as tech junkies and social networking trolls. I say to the person I am today, writing this post, I will and I am going to relinquish my technology based uses and substitute my own inner desires of connections with people for the sporadic decisions of my intuition, hopefully allowing myself that “self aloneess” which gives way to our true inner beings!
    I’m 24 years old and I feel as though i’m an elder among my friends, and they speak of me as a person who has been there done that, and knows how to do things more efficiently and properly. I’ve only ever seen myself as honest and majestic of the things I love most, the people and the wild, the society of my life and the outside protective of other creatures. Again I can now finish my paper correctly and appropriately now that I have read this.

    Thank you Mateo
    Tu’ eres importante.

    • http://lonerwolf.com/sol Mateo Sol

      Hi Matthew!

      I think you’ll have a great advantage on your paper by realizing the immense detrimental consequences that technology is having on our psychological and spiritual selves.

      If you’d like more ideas, there’s a brilliant video called The Innovation of Loneliness (http://vimeo.com/70534716) that expands a lot on what I wrote here.

      I’m again noticing how overwhelming and crippling the internet’s saturation of information is (I realize the irony of being the author of a website that provides more information). Somehow, the constant bombardment of information on the internet allows you to learn things more superficially, less in detail, and makes your brain feel this sense of in completion, that you aren’t ever achieving anything in it’s wholeness like for example with a book.

      You are important as well! Even if my opinion is just one of millions lost in the cyberspace of technology.

      Thank you for reading :)

  • Ms. Blue

    I love this post! I’m constantly being told by friends and peers that I need to get an instagram, a pinterest, etc. etc. Just this past year I FINALLY got a Facebook for the sole reason that I needed it to communicate and receive information from my college. My life started to feel more hectic just by this addition of technology alone, but slowly I am making my way back to the time when I would spend an entire day reading a book.

    I have all notifications (except phone and text messages) turned off. I normally don’t get many of either anyway. I also have an iPad, but I set certain times for myself on when I can use it. Typically I use it the same way as my computer, meaning I look up pictures for drawing or writing inspiration, or researching things I love to learn about. When I’m not using it, I purposely make a point to put it away.

    I hope this helps anyone who needs ideas on how to manage the technology in your life.

    • http://lonerwolf.com/sol Mateo Sol

      I understand the feeling Ms. Blue all to well. A few months ago I was living in the countryside of Spain for one of our Involution Workshops and it was one of the most beneficial experiences I’ve had in a long time.

      Productivity wise I felt more centred, more absorbed in my work because I could allow total immersion into the task at hand without being interrupted. When I returned to my routines here, I noticed the incredible difference and problem that having so much variety at hand can create.

      Those are great suggestion! You’re right, you must discipline yourself to assign certain times for certain things, and not allow yourself to aimlessly browse the internet for hours. It’s a seductive temptation and stimulating at the time, but when you’re done you don’t feel like you’ve achieved very much at all.

      Thank you for your comment and sharing your thoughts! :)

  • Lykourgus

    Small anecdote: A kid in front of my school almost got run over because he was crossing the road while playing a game on his phone. Utterly stupid, especially since it was a pretty busy road. Extreme example, but a good one none-the-less, I feel.

  • Joan

    Nomophobia!?!?!? I think its time I got started on that “SAVE HUMANITY” proposal!

    • http://facebook.com/matthew.kindle.92 Sol

      Hahaha, where do I sign?

  • JTD

    In the past few years I’ve become, more or less, a Neo-Luddite… I’ve never owned a cell phone or any portable gadget worth mentioning beyond watches and radios… Today I just can’t stand what this world has become with these phone-headed zombies walking around yapping and tapping frantically about absolutely nothing of any value!

    People make fun of me for this: for not being One of the collective “intelligence” of morons… They are all conformists and Slaves to Technology! I don’t think these people can Think without being “connected” in some way… And of course it’s all about conspicuous consumption and Status symbols… Just look at them frantically rushing out to buy the latest i-whatever to prove their worth!

    Furthermore, with my strong electronics background I’m certainly convinced about the physical dangers of electro-pollution and the like (I won’t bore you with it all, basically we’re talking Profit over People: cancer and other ailments are up, Way Way Up, and it’s not a coincidence that more and more of these damned Masts are going up everywhere!)…

    I limit my “communication” to this decade-old desktop computer, for it’s quite sufficient for my simple purposes of reading a few websites and sending the odd e-mail every day or so…

    • http://facebook.com/LonerWolf Sol

      Hello JTD!

      I couldnt agree more, the present world is becoming so externally focused that people are lost in this sort of haze, where they feel the must constantly be using the technology and talking to someone, even the most trivial of things.

      I recently heared of a woman that walked off a cliff because she was texting on her phone and not watching where she was going, she had to be rescued several hours later.

      Technology has developed a new type of ego, that of a cyberego where weve created this parallel egos of ourselves in an imaginary universe and value them to the point of exchanging real life exchanges of warmth, contact and stimulation. The will come a point where so much external focus into this world and so much little focus into the internal world may result in a terrible chaos and poorness of creative value that will affect the future generations minds.

      Its an area I want to write a lot more about, and as soon as I get back from my current trip, I will be thrilled to further research on.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject, I like hearing all sides of this issue.

      Sol

  • Jude

    I agree with your post wholeheartedly Especially as a young adult who had to grow up during this technological revolution, I feel it has made me feel even more lost and frustrated with the outside world. Sometimes I just want to runaway from it all and completely block off all sensory input. It is sad that people are so dependent on a hunk of metal to keep them satisfied rather than finding enjoyment from within themselves.

    • http://sapientology.com Sol

      Hey Jude!,

      Its sad but true. Technology isnt to blame for all this, rather its the misuse of such a wonderful advancement that is frightening. We live in a time that focuses so much of scientific evolution that theyve forgotten entirely about the inside world, the world that perceives and uses this external life.

      Without teaching children how to learn to introspect, to discipline their gratification and stimulation impulses and urges, how can we be surprised that if you present our generation with the notion of unlimited stimuli pleasure at your fingertips since the age you learn to read (or even before), theyll end up almost becoming robotized by this mental orgasm of excitement and think that very little else matters apart from it.

      Thanks for your input Judge, love to hear your thoughts :)

      Sol

  • http://twitter.com/space2live space2live

    i adore this post! It is a message I hope to spread with my own writing.

    A few years ago I felt peaceful and content. During that time I was reading a lot of books and sharing ideas with others. I used technology but I did not live for its chimes, beeps and alerts. I started to realize that multi-tasking did more harm than good.

    I am inching my way back to that delightful state. I think printed books are more relaxing than online reading but I cherish any reading that that isn’t governed by time constraints.

    Thanks for a wonderful post. I may link to it.

    • SolW0lf

      It’s a vital message that I strongly can see will be pivotal in our lives over the coming years as technology evolves more and more. :)

      I was the same way, my pre-technology years were filled with calmness, with books and curiosity, imagination and creativity. But as I’ve become more immersed in this world of information and gadgets, I’ve come to realize more is not always better as the proverb states. There’s so much information that I’m flooded with, that my bookmark bars are loaded with articles and sites I want to read more about, but somehow never can get around to it cause I constantly find newer articles to read. That’s the irreplaceable beauty of books.

      I jokingly imagined some day I’d commit a crime and be imprisoned just so I could have some free peaceful time to read books away from technology in between butt rapes.

      Keep your wonderful blog flowing out ideas, thanks for sharing your thoughts here :D !

  • http://www.facebook.com/samantha.mcclush Samantha McClush

    This is SO true! Especially if you have Computer Addiction!

    • SolW0lf

      Exactly, computers facilitate with speed the amount of distractions. Going to a news site becomes a tedious task of clicking away story after story that make you feel “informed” at the cost of your own inability to concentrate on anything specific, it makes us shallow.

      But mobile phones I fear are becoming worse than computers, they are inescapable. We carry them around with us everywhere, the constant anxiety that it is in our pocket, anyone is only a hand movement away. Computers at least can be left in the office and forgotten about while your doing other activities.

      Thanks for your comment ! :)