As we get past our material wants and instant gratification we connect to a deeper part of ourselves, as well as to others. – Judith Wright
The tendency to use such devices or visit these websites frequently and then become absorbed with the information we are gleaning from them is a condition called hyperconnectedness. In the spirit of full disclosure, I suffer with this condition, too.
Life continues to move on – with or without us
There are many times when I tune in a Kansas City Royals baseball game (with the volume muted) as I’m listening to Pandora on my iPhone while keeping up with email traffic, social media statuses and readers’ comments. To meet my responsibilities, I do need to be plugged-in, but sometimes I can be overly connected and actually miss out on what’s going on around me.
The technologies available to us do make certain things simpler. Finding information is just fractions of seconds away (Google proudly presents the length of time it takes to return listings for a particular search term); finding and staying connected with old friends is made easier with social media websites; and reading and replying to email can be done while waiting to pick-up our children from their after-school activities.
Our hyperconnectedness to these technologies can also create a barrier around us and actually shut out the people trying to reach us. Life will continue to move on –we just won’t be in it. I know this to be true all too well.
The best antidote for my hyperconnectedness is balance and awareness. While I’m learning to become more mindful of the need to unplug, there are times when I fall short. When I do, I have these reminders to help me disconnect from the technology and actually connect back to my life.
- Triage your technology.
It may be impossible to unplug everything at once. Take an inventory of what is vying for your attention and prioritize the true need and usefulness of each item. When online or at your computer, consider not opening your email’s inbox so your attention can be placed on the task at hand.
When I’m writing an article, and can’t make any real progress, I will close my internet browser or turn off the wireless adapter so I won’t be distracted by online time-wasters. This practice gets me off the computer sooner and back to my family.
- It’s all about timing.
Find a time when you can enjoy all of the things you love being connected to without ignoring the needs of others, or even your own personal needs. Sometimes when we try to abstain completely from a habit or activity, the results are short-lived.
Instead, carve out time each day when you plug in to what interests you and enjoy it without feelings of guilt interfering. For me, that’s first thing in the morning.
I wake up around 5 a.m. to check email, blog comments and what I missed on Twitter and Facebook from the night before. The TV morning news is on in the background and for the next 30 minutes I shamelessly enjoy my hyperconnectedness.
- Take a technological Sabbath.
There is a growing trend to declare one day of the week as technology-free. On this day, many are unplugging from what holds their attention the most. Televisions, computers and personal devices are turned off.
While the intent here is well-meaning; it may not be practical for everybody. There are many jobs that require employees to use the Internet or other technologies on a daily basis to perform their responsibilities. If you are in this position, consider taking a half Sabbath when you return home for the evening or over the course of the weekend.
- Think outside of the box.
We can be creatures of habit. Many have created habits around how we use technology. For some, technology is the primary activity that occupies most of their time. If you find yourself in this situation, begin to think of other activities you can do which do not require being plugged in to anything; other than just life itself.
Here’s my list:
~ Take a walk with Mary Beth after dinner when we simply talk and catch-up.
~ Read a real book with pages that can be turned with my fingers.
~ Go to a baseball game and take in the sights, sounds of the ballpark.
~ Spend time with my children doing things they enjoy.
~ Sit on my deck to think, pray and enjoy the gifts in my life.
- Acknowledge the difficulty.
Change can be difficult. It’s important to recognize in the beginning it will be hard to do things differently. There is comfort in the familiar and in how we have always done things.
The inclination to glance down when we hear a text message arrive on our phone, regardless if we are in middle of a conversation with someone else, and then read and reply to the text message, can be hard to resist.
The urge to check email as soon as our feet hit the door at home, regardless if our family is trying to get our attention to share their day, can be difficult to resist, too.
Acknowledge in the beginning it will not be easy. Rather than measuring your progress on a negative scale, what you’re not doing; measure your success more positively by realizing what you are doing.
Begin by making slight adjustments with your ability to unplug. Soon, your level of real-life connection will become more powerful. As your connection to life beyond technology continues to grow, stop and allow yourself to realize how much fun you are having and the personal fulfillment you are gaining.
The process of reconnecting
Life beyond the computer screen or the high definition display on our television sets is much brighter and far more interesting. The hyperconnectedness we have to technology can be replaced with a new-found connection to life itself when we reach for the power buttons on the things meant only to be tools in our lives; not surrogates for our lives.
When we do, we feel a new power begin to take over. This reconnection with our loved ones, our faith and ourselves provides the real power needed. Soon, as this power begins to grow we can experience the status updates right in front of our eyes, we can reply with a spoken word across the dinner table and we can search, together, for whatever it is we are looking for in life.
Reconnecting gives way to a new kind of hyperconnectedness – one that will help us finish life strong and finish it with others.