Connect by Disconnecting


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Over the last 20+ years, perhaps the single most significant technological change (in terms of the number of people it touches daily) is the rise of the internet.

It impacts all sorts of areas of daily life; from marketing, to how many jobs are done, and even how we interact on a daily basis.  One of the newer ways the internet is used is social media.  A few years ago I had never even heard of social media, but now “social media” has become part of the social consciousness.

One of the catchphrases of this change is that we are now living in the “connected” era.

The Connected Era.

I saw a recent study that said in North America the average person has almost three devices that connect to the internet.  Initially most people connected to the internet with a computer, and although they are still commonly used they are increasingly replaced by tablets and smartphones.  Devices that allow us to continue to be “connected” wherever we are, 24-7.

The internet and social media allows us to connect with almost anyone in the world.  We can keep up with them and know what is going on in their lives in ways we never could before.

But this seems to come with a cost.

One of the ironies of today’s world is that through technology we have many more opportunities to be “connected”.  Yet at the same time, depression and anxiety levels are increasing dramatically, and many people seem to feel more disconnected in their lives than ever.  And there is a growing belief that technology is playing a significant role.

 

The Social Media Age

Over the years I lost touch with one of my closest childhood friends, and due to Facebook I now have a bit of a window into his life that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible, which is great.

I have a brother on the other side of the country, and although he doesn’t post much I am able to periodically see my nephew and niece due to social media.

Hell, I have another brother who lives in the SAME city as me, and I find out more about him through social media than I do through actually talking with him (which is pretty damned sad if you think about it).

Furthermore, this blog is only possible due to online connectivity.  It’s a great outlet for me, and through it I’ve come to get to “know” a handful of people around the world that I wouldn’t have known otherwise, and hopefully my words have been able to give hope to some people, or at least let them know that they aren’t alone.

So yeah, there’s a lot of good that can come from this world of online connectedness.  It’s just a tool though, and all tools have both positive and negative sides.

 

The Importance of Connection

In my last two posts I have talked about the importance of connection.  True connection with another person is a feeling of being seen, heard and valued by that person (and feeling the same for them in return).  It’s an intangible energy that can be thought of as closeness, or intimacy.  And it’s a key component of love.

I believe that kind of connection is a basic human need.  But it can be difficult to achieve, because it requires us to be able to be in the moment and it also requires us to be vulnerable with another person.

And this  is where the dark side of online connectedness comes in.

 

The Highlight Reel

We all crave connection, but connection isn’t easy because it requires us to be vulnerable with someone else and to allow them to see our true self.

And that can be scary as hell.

For many, a fear of rejection and of not being accepted causes them to keep others at arm’s length; either limiting intimacy in the relationships they do have, or keeping them alone.

Social media gives us an avenue to partially fill this void, without all the risk associated with it.

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One problem is, with an online persona we can be whoever we want to be.  And I’m not talking about the whole “your internet girlfriend is really a 40 year old man” type of fake persona, or retouching images like they do for models.

What I mean is, we get to be very careful about how we portray ourselves.  We are selective in what pictures we put up of ourselves, and what sort of things we post.

Thing is, it’s not real.  Well it is, but it’s more like a highlight reel of a person’s life.  Their life doesn’t always look like that!!!

I recently went on a car trip and posted pictures from it to my facebook account.  The pictures are the sanitized version of the trip, with everyone “smiling and happy”.

There are no pics of my kids continually arguing in the backseat while I drove, or my son getting carsick (that was fun).  There are no pictures depicting my stress level when my check engine light came on in the mountains and I was about an hour away from the nearest service station.

But that stuff was all part of my trip, and it’s part of life.  And when looking at online profiles, it’s easy to forget that.

It’s easy to look at the highlights of other people’s lives, and either consciously or subconsciously compare them to your own.  And since you know about all the details of your own life, it’s easy to imagine that everyone life is better than your own.  Funner, more exciting, and happier.

And our own life will often feel lacking by comparison.

 

Fear of Missing Out

Another problem with social media is a fear of missing out (yeah, that’s actually “a thing”).

Fear of missing out (FoMo) is related to anxiety, and is where someone has a desire to continually see what others are doing due to a fear on what they could be missing out on.  Instead of being able to live in the moment there is a fear of making “the wrong choice”, and time spent ruminating about “how things could be different”.

Wikipedia describes this as follows:

On one hand, modern technologies (e.g., mobile phones, smartphones) and social networking services (e.g., Facebook,Twitter) provide a unique opportunity for people to be socially engaged with a reduced “cost of admission”.  On the other hand, mediated communication perpetuates an increased reliance on the Internet. A psychological dependence to being online could result in anxiety when one feels disconnected, thereby leading to a fear of missing out or even pathological Internet use.  As a consequence, FoMO is perceived to have negative influences on people’s psychological health and well-being, because it could contribute to people’s negative mood and depressed feelings.

FoMO may drive someone to constantly look for a better or more interesting connection with others, abandoning current connections to do so, without realizing that what they move to is not necessarily better, just different.

For people who grapple with FoMO, social media involvement could be attractive because it serves as a convenient tool to be socially connected with a relatively low cost. However, social media could not completely substitute face-to-face communication. Therefore, people with FoMO end up with a higher level of loneliness and isolation, which leads to more FoMO.

 

The Golden Triangle

One of my life philosophies (stolen from the business world) is the Golden Triangle.  Basically, everything in our life is fighting for limited resources.  We only have so much time and energy, and the quality of everything we do is impacted by how much time and energy we are able to devote to things.  As a general rule, if we want something to be good (or great), we need to put time into it.  And the more time/effort we put into something the better it can be.

This has huge implications for our connections and the world of social media.

Look, back in grade two I may have been great friends with little Billy who lived a few houses away.  And yeah, in todays world I can probably look him up, send him a friend request and catch up on his life.  And yeah, it’s would probably be great to see him again and laugh about the things we did.

But every time I do that, I am taking away from time I am able to devote to something else.

Do I REALLY need to spend a bunch of time looking at the lives of people I would likely never see or hear from outside of social media?  It may seem like a harmless diversion, and it often is.  But it can also start to negatively impact our lives and relationships.

A while back I wrote a post called You can have anything (just not everything).  We CAN’T have everything, and attempting to means we stretch ourselves too thin while reducing the quality of the things we DO have.

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We need to pick and choose what’s really important to us, and allocate our energies accordingly.  And sometimes that means letting go of things that we would like.  It’s unfortunate, but that’s just life.

 

The connected era can make it really hard though, especially when the tools we use for it are literally designed to make us “feel good”.  Companies spend a ton of money on trying to understand human psychology, and the way our brains reward system works.  And this trickles down to the products they create and market.

The “ding” of a message coming in, seeing the number of “likes” that you get on a picture or a post, the friend request.  All these mechanisms are designed to release dopamine, and make us “feel good”.  And that sort of instant gratification is often easier than the effort required sustaining our relationships in everyday life.  Kind of like escaping into substance abuse and affairs, it’s so much easier to escape into the world of online connection than it is to face the connections we have in real life.

 

With that I’ll leave you with two questions to ask yourself:

  1. What REALLY matters to you?
  2. Do your actions reflect that?

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Connect by Disconnecting

  1. My wife now has a deeper connection with the virtual, online world through Facebook than with her family or friends. She is constantly on her phone, even when she is alone with the kids. I feel very sad for her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that when people are feeling lost, the tend to gravitate towards what’s easy to “escape”.
      For some it’s drugs/alcohol, for some it’s eating, games, excercise. There are all sorts of “escapes” to avoid dealing with our problems. But increasingly, the online world is becoming an escape. And it’s doing a ton of harm without people even realizing it.

      It’s easy gratification. The new post, the new article. Likes, notifications, all sorts of things.

      Your situation sounds very unfortunate for everyone involved.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Side note, there are times that I want to pry peoples phones from their hands and throw them against a wall.

      When you are with someone, be present. Not 1/2 there and 1/2 in a phone.

      If I were ever to find myself in the dating world, that would be a deal breaker for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I read a study a while back about affairs, and how social media is being directly linked to an increase in rates of affairs – basically because they make them easier.

      2 main ways – first, often affairs are with “old flames”. So people look up a past lover to see how they are doing (never a good idea, especially when people most commonly do this when their own relationships is troubled), and through communication with them they end up rekindling an old connection.

      second, people used to have to sneak away from the family for affairs. Meet someone over lunch, or stay late at work to “put in overtime”. The opportunities were much more limited. Now? Your partner could be carrying on an emotional affair with you in the same room as them, under the guise that they are texting “a friend”, and you’re none the wiser.

      Before texting they would at least need to take the phone to another room so you didn’t hear what they’re saying. Now, not an issue.

      Like

      • The ‘other woman’ started as someone needing a shoulder and compassionate ear…you can fill in the blanks. Yes she confessed shortly after this started that she had feelings for him. I can appreciate that someone needing him was extremely fulfilling, and perhaps highlighted much of our intimacy and connection problems. Sad but true, today it is just too easy and accessible.

        Like

      • This kind of stuff pisses me off, because it’s all so damned predictable.

        People talk about affairs, and either deny them or say “I never meant for it to happen”, or “you can’t help who you fall in love with”.

        Sorry, I don’t buy that crap.

        There’s actually a pretty easy way to lay the groundwork for “feelings”. Talk to someone. Open up to them. Share emotionally intimate things with them. As you do that, and it’s reciprocated it creates feelings of closeness. It’s freaking biology, and it’s how pretty much all relationships start. The oxytocin and dopamine get flowing, and you start to feel attachment.

        So when someone IN a relationship already starts doing that with someone OTHER THAN THE PERSON THEY ARE ON A RELATIONSHIP WITH, what the hell do they think is going to happen?

        My next post will get into this a bit more, but when we get into a bad spot in our current relationship it’s really more a question of communication and conflict resolution than anything. THAT is what matters. And if we walk away, or try to seek solace in the arms of another every time things get hard we’re in for a lifetime of unhappiness.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I couldn’t have said it any better! I think about that often, it has NEVER crossed my mind, heck I knew we weren’t perfect but certainly in better shape than the next couple. I struggle as I see my family break up. BTW He is here hanging out until 8pm when he will leave. Life is so awful here he can’t leave.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Drew, this is so true and it is exactly the same on the opposite side of the coin too. How can you not know how you are hurting your spouse and shutting down intimacy in how the day to day relationship is going? If you want to be bonded, to experience connection and safety and love, do the things that lead to that! It does no good for me to be pissed at my soon-to-be-ex. He’s a lost cause and his new toy is welcome to him, but I’m grateful that I know how much b.s. Is oozing through the giant cracks in his asinine stories and accusations. It helps so much to finally be free of his projections and lunacy, to finally be free of my rose colored glasses and my need that had nothing to do with the reality of who he really is and how he really chose to operate.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I’m just as guilty as many others (most?) when it comes to hitting a stretch in a relationship where you take your partner for granted, and figuring that you are married, so you are committed and you don’t need to work hard. I wasn’t doing it consciously, and really, it was more a matter of us hitting a point in time in life where kids kind of took over everything, and we both let the relationship slide. So I see how it happens.

        That said, once I realized *what* had happened, I would like to think I made damned sure that started rebalancing my life, and making a point of making the relationship a priority.

        So I do understand how people can be slowly hurting each other without even realizing it. But for the life of me I can’t begin to understand how people can actively choose to do NOTHING about it when they finally do realize that they have been hurting thier relationship. That just boggles my mind.

        I have seen so many cases where people will just refuse to accept that anything has gone wrong, and will expend a tremendous amount of energy denying it and not doing anything about it. And I think you know, if they would take even half that energy and put it towards trying to understand each other and make the relationship better, they would both be happier.

        I’m reminded of times with my kids where I will ask them to clean something up, and they “don’t want to”. Sp instead they argue, and fight, and what should have been a simple thing gets escalated. At the end no one is any happier, and we have wasted at least 1/2 hr over something that would have taken 2 minutes to do.

        It seems to me many relationship problems are kind of the same.

        I love your line:

        “If you want to be bonded, to experience connection and safety and love, do the things that lead to that!”

        If you aren’t actively working on maintaining or even growing your relationship, then why are you even there?

        Like

  2. I just took a moment to watch the video THANK YOU!!! I am sharing this one, yes I am! I regret it will be on social media, however if I only touch one heart it will be worth it. ❤ The problem is that we have taken social media to an extreme, everything in excess becomes a problem, very simple and true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Prince EA (guy from the video) has some awesome messages in his stuff, and tends to do it in a way that really speaks to my heart.

      Years ago (like high school) I came to the belief that anything in life is fine, in moderation. Any time you get extreme with anything, it’s probably an unhealthy thing.

      And in the 20+ years since then, there’s been nothing to make me change my opinion on that one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I posted it on my FB wall. I should mention that since Facebook was a huge part of finding out about the EAffair I have pulled back from engaging. I disconnected from my husband and hardly post anymore however one cannot deny the audience. I agree moderation good / extremes toxic! I’ll check out more of his stuff.

        Like

  3. Hi Zombiedrew2
    I hope you saw my last post 49.
    I also talk about technology and its role in the world in particular related to narcissism.
    It is not so that all social media users are narcissists, but we give narcissists a platform and it is powerful and damaging and affects all ages.
    Many of my clients made comments that technology use has impacted on real time with each other leading to disconnection. Disconnection leads to issues in the marriage and indeed technology makes hook-ups easier….
    Those who already find it hard to go out and socialise, feel no need to force themselves, as they have so many “friends” on FB that they are “fine”.
    Others told me that the “likes” become addicting and that they rate their self-worth based on the number of likes…..and followers….
    Not good 😦
    Thanks for your thought provoking post.
    Elisabeth

    Like

    • This was a post that I could have continued to write about (and it was already kind of long). I left out a bunch of stuff I wanted to add, and considered splitting it into two parts.

      I didn’t get into narcissism in this, but you are completely right that social media does give narcissists a powerful platform.

      The disconnection point is a super important one, and it raises the question of whether the social media abuse is form of coping for a disconnected marriage, or if it is a cause of a disconnected marriage. Depending on the scenario, probably a bit of both.

      One line I had near the end is about design – and that’s something I could have written a ton about. Kind of like how tobacco manufacturers started adding chemicals to their products to increase the addictive nature, the designers of many online products/games do similar things. Take stuff like Candy Crush (and related games). There are all sorts of things designed into those games in order to make them more addictive, in order to try and get you to spend more money on them. Companies spend a ton of research and development trying to understand the brains pleasure and reward systems, and these products are created and marketed to take advantage of that.

      So it’s easy to get sucked in, and lose track of how much time is spent in these environments. Like any addictions, there are significant impacts that are felt by those around you – especially by those closest to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post. You hit the nail on the head on technology and social media.

    One item that I want to expand upon is how easy technology makes these “connections” appear. The one repeated item about texting and posting is how easy it is and the low risk they are for the person. The reason it is easier is that for texts and posts, the person reading it is left to impart their own emotion into the message instead of interpreting the emotional context of the person in a live conversation. People misinterpret each other frequently in texts and sarcastic posts on the Internet tend to be misinterpreted by the people reading them.

    This imparting of your emotional context into the message makes for simpler processing as you don’t need to take the other person’s emotions into account. If you don’t like the response, delete it, pretend that it never occurred, and go on to the next response to see if you like it. This tends to stunt emotional growth, and promote anxiety/depression as text and posts become approval ratings instead of dialogs between people.

    To emotional grow, we need face to face interactions with other people, and Social Media cannot replace that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The “fear of missing out” is exactly what I feel when I’m anxious! It’s terrible and there is such a pull to check social media when I’m feeling this way. As you know I’m working on disconnecting from my phone and social media. It will take time when I’m really anxious but I’m aware and definitely trying my best! Thanks for sharing this post. It’s great and informative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • From everything I know, there is no “cure” for anxiety. However one of the best ways to manage it is through understanding it, and understanding when something is physical/emotional response driven by anxiety. I really think getting to understand that is one of the best ways to learn to fight back against it.

      I have a close buddy who “beat” a very serious anxiety disorder. He knows he’ll always have it, but for years it controlled his live and now he’s been able to take back control. He told his story in these pages a few years back (under a series of posts about self love), and I think it’s great information for anyone dealing with anxiety/depression.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much. I’ve been in therapy for a while and have learned so much about myself and how I react when I’m anxious and I’ve always noticed that being too connected effects me. I’ve been doing this back and forth dance with social media for couple years now. I did quit Instagram when I realized it was causing me too much I anxiety. That was over 2 years ago. So I know that if I really put my mind to it, I can beat this and not let it take a hold on me. High functioning anxiety can be tough because people on the outside think you’re fine and not realize the internal struggle we are faced with. I do so much and actually do get things accomplished all the while being so afraid as I do it. One day at a time is what I tell myself :).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, one day at a time is all you can really do.

        I’ve had a lot of talks with my buddy on the process he went through (and continues to go through) to beat his anxiety. As you said, there is a significant internal struggle happening that most don’t even see. When he and I met, I had no idea what was going on (but then again, how often do we actually know what’s going on inside other peoples heads). He was able to appear as if everything was fine when it really wasn’t.

        Here’s a post where he talked about his healing – https://thezombieshuffle.com/2015/03/17/learning-to-love-yourself/. Personally I found it fascinating.

        I’ve read a lot of things on anxiety over the past few years, and while I have never experienced it I think I have a reasonably good understanding of it.

        Accepting that it’s there and being aware of how it’s impacting you is a HUGE step towards learning to manage it. Many downplay it, and are kind of in denial on how much it impacts their lives. They start to identify with anxiety, and see it as just “a part of who they are” instead of seeing it as something that is affecting them, that they can actively fight against.

        I’ve been following your blog, and from what I can see you seem to be doing a great job of not letting it control your life.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s great to know there are people out there who do not struggle with anxiety but who legitimately care and try to understand it. I’ll read your friends post later on today. I’m really interested in what he’s said. Thanks so much for your kind words and for following ☺️.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, there are people I know who struggle with anxiety. So the way I see it, caring about and trying to understand anxiety is really just a way of caring about them, and trying to make my relationships with them the best it can be.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I just deleted my Facebook app on my iPhone and iPad. I just realized I use my phone a lot because of it. I’m just on my second day but I’m hoping I’ll make it to a month without Facebook 😭. Wish me luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Boots,

      It’s really easy to get sucked into the world of social media, so recognizing how much time is being spent on it is pretty valuable.

      It makes me think of an approach to financial management. Pretty much everything I’ve ever read has recommended keeping a detailed journal of your spending habits for a while (a few weeks, a month or so). Often we do things without even really thinking about it, but when we start seeing the actual numbers it can act as a major wakeup call (wait a minute, I’m spending HOW much on coffee every week!!!).

      I think the same can apply for “downtime”. Whether it’s facebook, TV, random internet browsing (I have a buddy that can lose DAYS on Reddit), games (I grew up with Mario and doubt I’ll ever grow out of it), Netflix etc.

      None of these things are inherently bad. But it all comes down to how much time we spend on them, whether we are using them as a diversion/pastime or an escape from life, and if they are affecting our connection with the people around us.

      Balance is hard. But super important.

      Btw, I have a post coming soon(ish) that has been inspired by one of our conversations. Well, you and a number of other people I’ve talked to who have found themselves questioning things at times. I think it’s an important topic, and one that a lot of people struggle with at times.

      Wishing you luck!!!

      Like

      • I can’t wait to read your upcoming post! By the way, I’ve been reading this book (a memoir) where she was told to write three things that made her happy each day. At the end she realizes that the simplest things are what makes her happy most, not necessarily the big things.

        I have been spending a lot of my time with my kids and our dog (I think the dog takes up a lot of my time more than my boys lol) and less on social media. I’ve also picked up on some wonderful reads. I’ve been happier that way. Facebook was bringing my spirits down, especially with the current political mood in the US.

        Anyway, thanks for taking the time to reply back. I always value your thoughts!

        Like

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