How connected are you? If you are reading this you probably either have e-mail or can go online. Do you remember the days before the Internet, e-mail, and cell phones? Do you feel closer to people now, or do you long for the closeness you enjoyed back then? For millennia people sat around and talked to each other. Now kids sitting in the same room text each other. Or they're all on laptops, doing their own thing, telling the others about something cool they've found, but not being heard because everyone else is so engrossed with being "connected."
As much as people talk about being connected, it often seems as if they actually seek ways to evade each other in public. The avoidance might be unintentional, but the phenomenon is worldwide. The Japanese actually have a term for teenagers who withdraw completely from social contact with others — hikikomori. I routinely see pairs of students walking along or sitting beside each other, both of them texting someone else instead of enjoying being with the one nearby.
Though I can't recommend the source of the following as a regular diet, the cartoon does show clearly the unintentional aspect I just mentioned.
In his quest to be "connected," the poor guy in that cartoon wasn't connecting with the one near him, and probably as a result, she totally disconnected from him.
Technology and gadgets allow us to be in touch with people all over the world, some of whom we don't even know. For instance, I have no idea how many people who have never met me read my blog posts and know all sorts of things about me. And that's okay because, knowing that my blog is available to anyone with Internet access, I'm very selective about what I put "out there" about my family and me. Yet my blog is a handy tool for sharing our news with people who do know us and enjoy hearing what's happening in our lives.
Speaking of lives, many people are familiar with the idea of the "circle of life" that shows the various aspects that make up a person's life. You can find different versions of it, but here's one I found in several venues.
I ran across another version of that circle that is relevant to those who might be overly connected.
I must not be as connected as I thought because there are several of those icons that I don't recognize at all.
Some people are so dependent on social media that they often don't deliver personal news personally. They assume that everyone knows their news because they've "updated their status" online. I guess that's the downside of not being connected enough. Here's an example.
With today's social media, I have to wonder whether there isn't too much information about us "out there." (Have you ever googled your name?) Every day we hear about privacy concerns and stolen identities. How much information is too much? Do I need to know what someone ate for lunch? Do I need to let the whole world know ___ (fill in the blank) about myself? Is everyone as interested in me as I am? Easy connection carries with it the danger of feeding our natural narcissism, and that's not something we really need help with. I've read several articles lately on how narcissistic people are becoming. The following cartoon is a good one about that.
When Facebook friends find out I didn't see their latest status update, they seem disappointed in my seeming disinterest. It's a simple fact, though, that I don't have the time to read all the news feeds from my 1,200+ "friends" on Facebook. It's not that I don't care — I just don't have the time to read all that news. People have asked me why I don't have Twitter. If I can't keep up with Facebook, why would I ever add Twitter to my life?! In this "information age" we're bombarded with so much information, personal and impersonal, that it amounts to nothing more than noise.
Technology has made it easier to connect with others, and I do love that aspect of the tools. Yet I do not believe that connection = closeness. Realistically, we don't have the time and/or the emotional energy to maintain deep relationships with very many people. As our relationships broaden, they inevitably become more shallow. Is connection becoming a poor substitute for real communication? Are we connected without connecting?
I have to say that just after publishing this this morning, I went on Facebook to post a link to it. While there, I did Facebook chat with a young cousin in France and learned that he and his wife have a second baby, that his wife's maternity leave is almost up, and that his dad had had a pacemaker installed. I learned also that his dad (widowed for quite some time) remarried in April of this year and that the family likes his new wife (also widowed with two kids the same ages as my cousin's two adult children.) All that by connecting with a young cousin who is a Facebook friend that I saw was also on Facebook at the same time as I. Not bad, huh? Those who get the e-mail version of my posts won't know those bits of information unless they come read it on the blog itself. But will their lives be impoverished if they don't? Probably not.
I would not want to go back to the days before technology, but I also want to be careful that technology is my tool and not my master. Is that a battle for you too? What are your thoughts on "connectedness" vs closeness? Is my thinking on this off-base? I think the comments to this post could be very interesting.
"Wouldn't it be great if the worst thing those who work with you can say about you is that you're a little too devoted to God?" - Drew Conley
Sometimes I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
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