I’ve been travelling for work a bit lately, which means I’ve been out of my normal routines, and have fallen into a familiar trap.
I’ve been overconnected. And I can tell it’s hurting me.
You probably know the signs yourself – and how easy it is to find yourself doing it.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the power to take control of our connectedness – and not the other way around.
For about 6 years now, I’ve been on a quest to be mindful of my digital connectedness and its effects on me physiologically, mentally, socially and creatively. I’ve also run lots of personal experiments on ways to manage that connectedness, and the benefits of doing so deliberately.
Over-connectedness has the very real power to disconnect us from what is most important in life.
Here are just 7 reasons we should be deliberate about managing it:
1. Because it can derail your focus
I’ve written before about both the power of focus, and the dangers of digital connectedness in damaging our capacity for it. When we are distracting ourselves by checking our phones every 4.3 minutes, we need to carefully examine and manage our connectedness if we want to be those who retain the capacity to focus on a thought or task in the future!
2. Because it can impact your ability to form and nurture healthy community
Tell me this doesn’t sound familiar – you’re together with a group of friends, sharing an evening, a meal, a chance to catch up on each other’s lives… and people are checking out of the moment by checking their phones. In their excellent book, ‘The Hyperlinked Life‘, David Kinnaman and Jun Young write
“There’s a propensity to reduce people to just one of the many data sources transmitting information. We “skim” these friendships just like we do with every other piece of information that calls for our attention. Friendships become just another node in the digital life we have to manage, just another app among the dozens on our screens that we can “play” when we have a moment and that we can turn off when it’s inconvenient”
3. Because it can impact on your intimate relationships
I was at a conference recently where one of the keynote speakers shared that she and her husband have instituted a rule – the first point of connection in the morning will always be with each other, and not with their devices.
It sounds like it should go without saying, and yet the presence of our smartphones can have a very real detrimental effect even on our closest relationships. We know that even the presence of a smartphone on the table during a deep and meaningful conversation can reduce feelings of intimacy, yet for many of us our devices are omnipresent even when we are alone with the chance to connect with those nearest and dearest to us.
4. Because it can impact on your spirituality and centredness
In ‘Hamlet’s Blackberry’, William Powers makes the thought-provoking statement that
“Beyond the sheer mental workload, our thoughts have acquired a new orientation. Of the two mental worlds everyone inhabits, the inner and the outer, the latter increasingly rules. The more connected we are, the more we depend on the world outside ourselves to tell us how to think and live. There’s always been a conflict between the exterior, social self and the interior, private one. The struggle to reconcile them is central to the human experience, one of the great themes of philosophy, literature, and art. In our own lifetime, the balance has tilted decisively in one direction. We hear the voices of others, and are directed by those voices, rather than by our own. We don’t turn inward as often or as easily as we used to. To be hooked up to the crowd all day is a very particular way to go through life.”
What do we think it will do to our ability to look beyond and within ourselves if we are constantly looking to the external stimulus of the crowd, and our perceptions of their perceptions of us?
5. Because it can impact on your identity
In a prescient statement written before the advent of Instagram, Twitter or even Facebook, Robert Inchausti warned that
“To the extent that the modern world has become ruled by the crowd it has become a theater of empitness and vanity. When we look to each other for a model of Being, the self turns into a Mobius strip” – ‘Subversive Orthodoxy’
Would the definition of your identity be any different if it were not in any contrast to those whose curated lives are perpetually in your digital field of vision?
6. Because it can limit your capacity for problem-solving and original thought
Digital connectedness and multitasking go hand in hand. The quick navigation from notification to notification, tab to tab, affects the way we take in information and skim through reading material – whether its content deals with the trivial or tragic.
In ‘The Shallows’, Nicholas Carr reports on the findings of Jordan Grafman, head of the cognitive neuroscience unit at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, who explains that ‘the more you multitask, the less deliberate you become; the less able to think and reason out a problem.’
7. It can limit your potential and sense of purpose
In an earlier post on why you should ban your phone from your bedroom, I asked the question of which approach will set you up for the most deliberate and productive approach to your day:
a) Starting the day with an influx of random information and notification from your devices, before trying to settle your thoughts onto your key priorities and attempting to settle into the focused knowledge work that make the the bulk of many of our jobs, or
b) Resisting the urge to connect until we have centred ourselves on the most important ideas and goals for the day, and given our attention to the most important ideas and steps we need to explore that day?
The answer, for most of you, was as clear as it was for me. Being deliberate about the priority connectedness takes in the morning allows us to develop a clearer sense of purpose, and maximise our potential for the day – and beyond!
It is easy not to think about our level of connectedness and what effect it is having on us. It is mildly difficult and sometimes uncomfortable to be deliberate about instituting control over our connectedness. It is also completely do-able and absolutely worth the effort!
Questions: In what areas or situations do you find it most difficult to take control of your connectedness? What benefits have you found by making the effort?