DISCONNECTION IN THE AGE OF CONNECTIVITY
Last month, I wrote a piece reflecting on unfulfilled New Year’s Resolutions from 2018 and setting intentional, meaningful resolutions for 2019.
In an attempt to heed my own advice and walk the proverbial walk, I have spent the last 30 days in honest reflection on my opportunities for growth, how to leverage my strengths in order to pursue those opportunities, and, more crudely, what positive steps I can take towards getting my shit together in 2019.
After several bouts with the mental gymnastics that are self-evaluation, I found that while my opportunities for growth are plenty and span nearly every arena of my life, there is a common thread that underlies each of them, and ties them all together: disconnection.
I began contemplating my relationships with others: Family. Friends. Significant Other.
I began contemplating my relationship with self: Physical. Mental. Emotional. Spiritual. And I discovered that while my community is, in a word, bountiful, and that my relationship with myself, despite the inevitable ebbs and flows, is generally in an okay place, that the space and potential to deepen these relationships, these connections, is abundant.
How is it possible for loved ones, most of whom are a phone call or a text message away, to still feel so distant? How is it possible to feel like I have no idea what’s going on in my little sister or best friends’ lives when I am getting glimpses, albeit small ones, into their daily lives via social media stories or posts? How is it that I can often find myself feeling stumped about a particular emotion, idea, or symptom I am experiencing despite the infinite information at my fingertips at any given time? (Note to self: BEWARE the WebMD rabbit hole.)
Why am I feeling so disconnected in the age of constant connectivity?
The notion that we live in a unique time of constant connection is not a novel one, nor is the realization that technology, in all its splendor, has the potential to do as much harm as it does good. But, when I really started thinking about my feeling of disconnection in the age of connection, I realized that the emotional phenomenon, and the subsequent solution, go much deeper than simply swearing off or limiting time on social media.
While my knee-jerk solution to bridging the gap between disconnection and connection was indeed to limit my screen time, I quickly understood that this would be nothing more than a band aid, a quick fix, to a more deeply rooted interest in deepening connection.
Certainly, spending less time looking at a screen, be it a television, a cell phone, or a computer screen, frees up more time and space. But, I don’t want to stop there and call the discord corrected; I want to take it further. I don’t want to just free up space; I want to fill the space in ways both meaningful and significant, to my community and to myself.
What if, instead of just liking a photo of my girlfriend’s daughter, I actually called her up and asked to babysit for a night, allowing me to spend time with my niece and my friend a night to herself because I understand that being a single parent is a tall task?
What if, instead of just texting my sister “How is your Senior year of college going?”, I took the time to put together a small care package with a note of reassurance, because I know that the transition from college student to aspiring professional is a scary one?
What if, instead of asking my significant other to take a photo of me in bakasana at the peak of the next mountain we climb, I simply put my arm around him and allow us both uninterrupted time to enjoy the view we just worked so damn hard to achieve?
What if, instead of resorting to Glo or Google when I am writing my yoga classes and the inspiration just isn’t coming, I give myself the space to just be patient; to simply move intuitively and see what happens?
I can only speculate on the answers to those questions, but I suspect they would like something like this:
My girlfriend would be so grateful to have some time for self-care, and I would be so excited to spend some one-on-one time with her daughter. My sister would find some comfort in knowing that, despite how it seems, the “real world,” while challenging, isn’t all that bad, and that at the end of the day, we are all out here still trying to figure it out.
My significant other would find joy in his company and a mountain view being enough.
I would relinquish my persistent urge for organization, perfection, and structure, and in doing so, mute the voices in my head and let my body find the movement it truly needs.
The path to bridging the gap between disconnection and connection is, for me, a twofold one. It’s not only being more cognizant of screen time and understanding that technology, while keeping us connected, leaves much to be desired in terms of actual human connection, but also using the time away from technology in meaningful ways.
As with any of the nearly endless combinations of situations the universe can throw our way, it can be tempting to adopt the knee-jerk, surface-level, band aid solution to our circumstances and goals. But, what would happen if we put in the work and dug deeper? If, instead of just resolving for less screen time, we opted for more time spent not just connecting with our community and ourselves, but deepening those connections.
Next time you want to hit the “like button,” on friend’s photo, challenge yourself to make a phone call and set a coffee, or dinner, or yoga date.
Next time you find yourself missing a family member, challenge yourself to do more than just send a text saying so.
Next time you find that perfect lighting for that perfect yoga photo, challenge yourself to hop into the pose and enjoy the light firsthand, rather than behind the lens of a camera.
And next time you find yourself on your yoga mat, challenge yourself to relinquish all expectations and all judgements of yourself, allowing yourself the space to simply meet yourself where you are, and deepen arguably one of the most important connections of all: the one with yourself.