Connection. We hunger for it, crave it, get energy from it, build our schedules and lives around it, and with good reason. Psychologist and best-selling author, Dr. Henry Cloud (The Law of Happiness), points out that God designed our brains to need just three things to be happy – oxygen, glucose and relationship…connection.
This is likely not the first piece you’ve read about the importance of real connection, the dangers of virtual relationships/social media and how both are transforming our culture and even the cognitive development of our children. Yet, we still seek connection in, perhaps ironically named, “social networking” sites, email, text, Instagram, Snapchat, etc….all of them from behind the glass of technology. That glass on our devices allows a picture into the world of the other and the other into ours. It allows relationships to develop or grow, even from across the globe. That glass allows for connection, but often an anemic one that leaves us starving and seeking. So we search some more and keep coming up short — example, ever find yourself getting lost in scrolling through your FaceBook newsfeed aimlessly for much longer than planned? That’s your brain trying to find happiness through connection.
In this world of a million “hacks”, deep, brain-satisfying connection is not something that can be “hacked” despite our feverish attempts to do so. Most of us have fallen into this seductive “hack”, though, masked in texting, Instagram, Tweets, Snap-chatting, FaceBook status updating, emailing, etc., etc, etc. All behind this glass (even reading this blog! even writing this blog!). None of it satisfying the need in our spirit to truly connect. None of it felt with our hands, embraced in our arms or breathed in, so we know someone’s scent or presence when they enter a room.
While there are amazing advantages to having such instant access to one another, especially for those who are separated, how much are we letting it consume our relationships and at what cost? The illusion of closeness and connection felt through the glass of our screens seems to be becoming more and more intense, and yet so is our dissatisfaction with it. Any of these sound familiar: “I just want to SEE you!” , “I just want to hear your voice!”, “I’m so sick of this phone!”
All too easily connections, and pseudo relationships, develop over text and email where the most intimate (and heinous) words can be spoken, seemingly to foster connection, but instead they create a mask, allowing a rawness that is often too much. “The glass” allows for darts to be thrown, kisses to be blown, accusations to be made without the normal consequence felt because we cannot experience the other person’s reaction authentically. Is it really worth it? How often do we stop and ask ourselves the question?
Where is the balance?
How do we take healthy advantage of the amazing benefits while not allowing it to define and reduce our relationships to cotton candy substitutions for genuine human to human, soul to soul connections that really do meet one of that critical basic need?
- Use technology so that it doesn’t use you. All healthy relationships require boundaries. Your relationship with your glass-screened device is no exception. Thankfully a real-live person realized this and created technology to help!
- Apps that track time (Hours, RescueTime, etc.) and timers on your phone – see how your time really is spent and then you get to decide if that’s really how you want to spend it.
- Reminders on your phone – set one that has a phrase or noise to snap you out of your “techno coma” and back into the real world.
- More ideas? Google or FaceBook search “technology to limit use of technology” and have fun!
- Stay aware of YOU and your experience. Boundaries are needed here too. Notice your emotional experience in both “behind the glass” vs. in-person interactions or even those incorporating more of your senses.
- Check yourself. How do you feel after text vs. face-to-face or on the phone conversations? Energized? Drained?
- Test your texts. Re-read your messages and see if you if you would’ve uttered those words if face to face or voice to voice.
- Define “textable” and “non-textable”. Have a real, live discussion with your family & friends about which topics are off limits for text.
- Ask why and what. Ask yourself once in awhile “what am I looking for?” if you’re scanning your newsfeed, or “why am I texting versus calling or meeting this person in person?” Staying aware will allow you to make choices rather than defer to the quick “hack” that has become our default mode.
- Schedule in-person or non-virtual world time…or both (gasp)! No matter how minor, researchers find that our brains and bodies benefit from interacting with other people. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, extended or even with anyone to whom you’re close. Simply engaging with another human being who’s positive to be around – listening to their voice, reading their body language, “experiencing” them will help meet this need.
- Book it and prioritize it – put it on your calendar. Another way to use technology against itself!
- LOOK UP – I know I’m stating the obvious here, but simply looking up from your device will prompt you to gain perspective.
- Disconnect. Oh, this is painful, I know! The world will survive, and we will survive as hard as it is to believe. If you can’t do a day without device, as some self-improvement gurus advise (and follow themselves), even start with an hour or afternoon. Heck, even start with 30 minutes! Notice how it feels and be IN the world around you whether with people or in nature.
Our souls, our bodies, our brains were not Divinely created to be fed through glass. No true nourishment can be gained that way long-term. You can get the connection and relationships you desperately crave. You can achieve balance through boundaries and free yourself from living so much of life from behind the glass.