The other day we received our latest National Geographic magazine with an article about a researcher who has embarked on a 21,000 mile walk from Cape Town to Tierra Del Fuego. His purpose is to retrace the steps of our earliest ancestors and discover how they used to live. In reading about the reasons for doing this trek he mentioned that he decided to disconnect and use this time to focus on discovery, pondering, learning and writing. That modern conveniences have us so distracted that we have lost touch with our history and each other.
We live in a society of inattentiveness where our attention is pulled in every which direction at any moment of the day. Whether it’s the news, email, social media updates, texting or telephone calls there are few moments of our day that allow for careful reflection or introspection. Out in public when you look around it seems everyone is glued to their smartphones and tablets. Looking for directions, taking pictures, updating their Facebook statuses, tweeting, etc. takes up so much of their time that people miss out on the simple nuances of human interaction. Though the advent of the Internet and mobile devices in some ways makes life easier they have also become a detriment to social interaction. How long before our ability to speak with, write to and cooperate with humans on a personal level is so atrophied that we are no more adept at it than animals.
Our ability to socialize with people face to face is much like any muscle in our body. If we flex it, stretch it and train it the muscle will become more adept, stronger and more able. If we ignore our muscles and fail to exercise them even a little bit they become weak and unable to perform the most basic human tasks without feeling strained and sore. Reaching out to another human being, even in our own household, is an exercise in strengthening and flexing our bonds with others. When we separate ourselves we become self-centered and unwilling to tolerate others. You may view being on social media as being “social” but posting text on an electronic medium cannot replace having a face to face conversation. And no I don’t even mean video chatting. That has it’s place, but spending time with others, disconnected from all forms of distraction (even TV) allows you not only to bolsters your social muscle but invigorates your brain, improves your vocabulary and increases levels of serotonin that allow for stress reduction and other health benefits.
Sometimes when you are in a rut and feeling despondent about where you are in life it’s time to step back and reevaluate what we are doing and how we can improve. Sad thing is that when we are in a tough spot it can be difficult if not impossible to find our own way out. There is a website called Happify.com of which I am a member that provides you with tracks of tasks to perform to help your improve your view of your current situation. Many of them force you to view yourself from a different perspective, help others, and reach out for help.
I haven’t kept up on this like I should and have had a very hard time working myself out of a funk that has lasted way too long. Actually, the social interaction portions were what caused me the greatest anxiety. It is a personality flaw on my part but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. It’s amazing how I don’t have any problems speaking in front of others but approaching them one on one makes me feel like running away. Things have happened in recent years with lack of respect, failing of understanding and compassion, back stabbing, meddling and pernicious gossip that have made these feelings worse for me, but I can’t go on like this forever. I want to improve myself so I can make moves that will improve my family life and my relationships with my husband and children. I want to make friends and be able to trust them.
Learning how to properly manage our attachment and access to the Internet and mobile devices is only one aspect of improving our attention spans and willingness to connect with others. It’s a start though. If you’d like an invitation to Happify please send me your email address through the contact form of the blog and let me know. Make sure to mention Happify in your message.
Have you noticed an inability to connect with others because of too many digital distractions?