Disconnecting to connect

October 13, 2010 at 0:03

World within a world

A world within a world

This post is inspired by a video shared with me by a friend and an ex-colleague which brings attention to the fact that as we get surrounded more and more by technology, we often miss the magic of life, things that are there, with us, at arms length, yet what we may never notice by being ‘connected’ to online world with our handheld devices or computers in general.

Will our children not know the smell of new books?

Will our children never develop a crush with someone whose online profile they have not glanced at before?

I am addicted to technology. I am online 24/7 with my smartphone, I do not watch television at all – preferring movies and series suitable to my own pace with online viewing or DVDs – and I use an e-reader for books. I am connected to anyone I consider important in my life at all times with no regards to distances and I get all my news through RSS feeds I know I am interested in, never getting irrelevant content to waste my time. I never have to learn the street addresses, for my GPS will always show me the right way. I study in a world where the amount of knowledge is less important than the ability to seek knowledge out. In ten to twenty years time, I am sure I will be more and more connected, living a life surrounded by this ‘ubicomp’ I wrote about couple of blog posts ago. A beautiful world that science fiction writers have been writing about for years, it really is a dream realized.

But this video touched me and made me think. I have not been able to shake this topic off my mind and my fingers have been itching since the moment I viewed it, to write up some thoughts about it. We can consider ourselves early adopters in this New Media driven world. Having no one to learn from, we are often blinded by our fascination of technology without realizing how it might make us think different, how it might change what is still deeply rooted in our nature. I cannot help but think that if it were natural – this advancement towards technology driven and surrounded world – then this video should not raise the questions that it does? Then why the goosebumps in the moment a father notices his child drawing?

Online world moves at a different pace compared to our day to day, offline world. I think that this causes a conflict, making us live in an illusion that we are more socially active. Commenting on a number of Facebook status updates within five minutes is cheaper and less time consuming than calling a friend or asking them out for a dinner, discussing the same topic. Or is it like the people who take cameras to parties, recording the fun instead of experiencing it themselves? Feeling involved, while distant.

Our time-consuming lives become secondary against such a competition, for we prioritize in activities of quick and impulsive emotions with just as quick and impulsive rewards. Just like how we like to procrastinate all of our more time-consuming tasks, we also postpone relationships and experiences that are more time consuming. You can visit a friend later in the week, but you have to comment on that hilarious cat video someone just uploaded to YouTube right away. But one day your friend might not be there, waiting for you, anymore.

Might this mean that we will start relationships, more and more, online instead? By believing those avatars that are online social network profiles? By looking at statistics, it seems that as technology becomes a larger part of our lives, we let it bleed over to all other aspects of our lives as well, one by one, including relationships.

There are websites which already aim to do exactly that. One of the more ingenious ones is okcupid, which matches people simply based on questions they answer. Created by a group of smart developers, the website is driven by fascinating formulas to find out if and how much you share in common with another person, based on series of questions. This makes the whole social life look like it can be succeeded at by studying basic math. But such an interactive social experience makes one assumption that is false in the very core: it assumes that a profile represents who a person actually is. But this is incorrect, even if the person attempts to be entirely honest.

This is because who we think we are is never whom others will see us as, no matter how hard we try. To go further than that, other people also see you partly how they would like to see you, instead of who you actually are. To find a true, honest common ground, you need time and you need shared experiences. And these two things are becoming less and less common each day thanks to technology. We think that a shared experience is both commenting on the same movie or clicking a ‘Like’ button in Facebook.

But I do not think that there is no hope. I think that at times, you simply have to stop and look around for a moment and make sure the love of your life is not randomly passing you by. Or pick up and make a call to your friend, instead of posting something cryptic on their wall or inbox in the social network you share. I still strongly believe that magic of technology is good for our lives. We just have to be in control of technology and not have it control us by the time we close our eyes and go to sleep.

This is because a smile is so much warmer than a smiley.

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One Response to “Disconnecting to connect”

  • Urmas says:

    If I would write a story as an answer I would write those exact same words as they are as true as the pain in my finger that I fell on to earlier this morning. That made me feel alive and later that morning I read this post..

    Believe it or not but at that moment after I fell off my bed, being sleepy, I suddenly thought about online gaming- how easily we drive ourselves into trouble without fear if we’ll have another chance- we always do when playing games, always. But that hurting finger made me look at my little daughter who was just waking up and asking for my permission to come out from her room.

    This post touched my heart as I experienced another part of technological advancement of our current era.

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