As a psychologist, I find myself extremely interested in observing—observing the world, observing people and animals, observing how we interact and connect to others. We often forget to take time to observe the world and how we fit into it; unlike our canine friends, we rarely stop to smell the roses (and other things). I believe this to be especially true today, more so than at any other time in history. In a world of Twitter, Instagram, selfies, and constant attachment to media, we have struggled to find true connection and meaning in relationship to ourselves and the world.
There is a video going around on social media of a woman engaging in different activities, such as hiking, bowling, dining with friends, etc. As she is doing them, it becomes obvious that the people around her are struggling to be present because of their attachment to electronic devices. As the world becomes more connected electronically, it seems we become more disconnected personally and relationally. After watching the video, I wondered: How can we learn to be and stay connected in this age of information?
Advancements in technology allow us to connect to the masses in ways we never could before, but what about our connections at a deeper, more meaningful, individual level? Within the existential/humanistic theory, it is believed that connection and relationship are the keys to change. Beginning with individual connectedness, we can affect the greater, collective connectedness. It is a genuine relationship which holds the essence for growth, change, and development.
Here are three ways we can achieve healthier connection:
- Connect with the self: Only 15 years ago, most of us were able to make it through the day without knowing where everyone was at all times. We were able to drive from destination A to B without having to check our phones or text. We went through the school or work day by engaging in conversation with classmates or coworkers rather than turning to electronic devices. To get back to basics, a few easy things one can do is to put the phone, tablet, or laptop down when driving, eating, in bed, etc. This does not mean you should stop using social media and electronic devices; at times, such resources can be useful. But giving yourself and those physically near you some time to connect to you, without an electronic device in the middle, can be liberating and foster relationship growth. Challenging yourself, for example, to go on a hike or walk without any form of distraction is a great start.
- Set limits: Limit yourself to checking your phone, tablet, laptop, etc., a specific number of times each day. Over time, checking electronic devices becomes so habitual that we often do not recognize how much time we commit to them. For non-work-related purposes, allow yourself to check your phone, say, five times a day for five to 10 minutes each time. You may be surprised to realize that you were using your phone more than you thought. Anytime you have an urge to check your device, ask yourself what is really happening. Are you trying to avoid something? Distract yourself? Get news updates? What is the need behind the urge and why is it there?
- Seek transcendence: This is a skill that takes time, but the idea behind it is to allow yourself to truly be with the experience, relationship, and moment without distraction. Often we turn to devices in an effort to avoid dealing with our reality and thoughts we may have about ourselves. To be truly connected means allowing yourself to be aware and accepting of all that is within you and surrounds you—good and bad, pleasurable and painful, simple and confusing, etc.
As you embark on your journey to connection, take time to ask yourself what matters to you. When we get lost in the world of electronic distraction, we often lose ourselves and that which is most important to us. Connection is to be aware of yourself and your surroundings without judgment of self or others.
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Pooja Shah, PsyD, therapist in Bakersfield, California
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.