The Disconnected Generation
The 21st Century has seen some of the most amazing technological developments. The birth of these many new technologies has allowed us to be connected with groups and individuals worldwide, even those we might have never met. The light side of the new technology is that it allows for continued contact with others; friends & family members who move to other states or countries are merely a Skype call or a FaceTime away. The problem with technology, however, is in the dark side. The dark side of technology is that which permits us to create the facade of connectedness without real engagement with others.
We are the most technologically connected generation in history but may be the most emotionally disconnected; with Facebook, we can see where someone has been, what they like, their favorite movies, quotes and authors. We can even see their life through photos if they post them. We can chat, text, instant message, post on others' walls, get "linkedin" and add them to our circles. While all of these things are wonderful, the danger is in the illusion of connectedness that is created through the use of these technologies.
Digital connection is useful; many of us have made some of the greatest partnerships with others through social media. The danger is when these ways of connecting become our main mode of encountering others. As telegrams gave way to letters & letters to phone calls, we are now in the age where phone calls are giving way to text messaging which continues to erode at our ability to engage others. The advantage of face to face connection is that it is much easier to authentically connect when our facial expressions, body language & reactions reveal us to one another.
Authentic connection and real engagement with another does not come cheap or easy. To be completely engaged with another is to be vulnerable, open, willing to both give and receive, to be fully present in that moment and to risk. Authentic engagement opens one up to rejection, embarrassment, humiliation, hurt, heartbreak and many of the other emotions we tend to run from. On the other hand, authentic engagement also offers us the opportunity to be seen, loved, accepted, welcomed and many times, healed. It is far safer to retreat behind a computer screen or a smart phone but the real magic of living comes when we step into encounter with another receptive, authentic human being.
Tiffany Shlain, producer and filmmaker, said in her film Connected, "you're not addicted to your cell phone; you're addicted to the feeling of connection". The psuedo-connections we hold so dear are often times nothing more than a very thin veneer that is used to hide how isolated we really are. After all, having 900 friends on Facebook means nothing if none of them ever really see you.
The challenge presented in this is how to balance the usefulness of technology with real-life connection. Maybe it's time to unplug for a bit. Maybe we can each mindfully decide to set aside our technology for a bit more each week, day, hour to be present in our lives. Leave the computer off for a day. Leave the cell phone at home. Turn off the TV. Take some time for the people you care about to just be with one another without the incessant beeping of notifications, calls & text messages. Risk being present in your life...after all, connections are fairly pointless if they aren't real.
-- Lisa Vallejos