Losing Connection in the Age of Information

three people on electronic devicesAs 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

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  • STU

    STU

    April 17th, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Anyone who knows me well would tell you that I am one of these sick people who feels absolutely lost without my phone. I like the immediacy of having people be able to get in touch with me in a flash and I can do the same. I feel disconnected to the rest of the world without it, and if it doesn’t bother me or I don’t feel like it adds any extra stress on me, then who is it hurting? I feel more stressed without it than I ever do with it.

  • Danielle

    Danielle

    April 18th, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    MY parents always set time limits for me and although I hared it then I can respect that now. I have to be eating dinner out and see an entire familly disengaged from each other because they are all so busy on their phones. What is so important that it can’t wait until after dinner or that can’t be put on hold while you have some family time together?

  • charmaine

    charmaine

    April 18th, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    with so many friends and relatives living out their lives online it is very hard not to get sucked into that pattern too

  • Susanna

    Susanna

    April 19th, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    It almost seems absurd that the things that are supposed to have been created to bring us all closer together are actually the things that seem to be tearing many of us apart.
    Most of us spend far more time conversing through text, email, and social websites than we do sitting down and talking to each other in person. There is something that is really very wrong with that and I think that we have a whole generation of children as well as young adults who will never experience the closeness that two people can have a s a result of technology. You wouldn’t think that it would draw this wedge between us but it definitely has, and I can’t see that any of us are any better for it.

  • nate g

    nate g

    April 21st, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    There are those of us who are totally connected to our gadgets and then there are those of us who don’t care. The bad thing is that it is hard to change from one type to another. If you love your gadgets you will feel like you will go into withdrawals without them; and if you are not so tech driven then you will be made to feel like they are your ball and chain. It would be great if there was a way for all of us to establish some kind of healthy balance, but just like with other things in life balance is one of those things that most of us struggle with a great deal.

  • Carroll

    Carroll

    April 21st, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    I don’t know how it is possible because I keep up with all of my friends thru facebook and instagram all the time but I do feel more alone now than I ever have before.

    What has happened is that I now feel like I am intruding on others’ private time if I even think about picking up the phone and calling. And then I begin to wonder why they didn’t call me, do they not want to hang out anymore.

    This is what all this age of so called “connectedness” has brought to me- fewer real friends and a lot more uncertainty about how solid the ones that I thought that I had actually are.

  • Celine

    Celine

    April 22nd, 2014 at 3:43 AM

    I know that we are all losing the capacity to fully communicate with one another.
    There are days when I think that if people can’t use abbreviated texts or emoticons they really would have nothing important to say

  • georgette

    georgette

    April 23rd, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    Kind of makes you wonder how we ever made it through the day without something called email and cell phones!

  • sue f.

    sue f.

    June 29th, 2014 at 5:00 AM

    It is such a shame where we are all heading for. This is the downside of too much technology. Whenever I am on the train, no one even looks up anymore (not that I want to be noticed), but people’s heads are all bent down, everyone is busy looking at their gadgets busy tweeting, using FB etc. I feel like we are robots of technology.

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