Though it’s technically possible to be connected thousands of people thousands of miles away—anytime, anywhere—too much of a good thing can lead to a bad place. Solitude is a human need and to deny it is unhealthy for both mind and body. Living in a technologically connected 24/7 society that undervalues solitude and overvalues attachment is stressful and stress is a killer.
Mobile use isn’t the future it’s the present. Smartphones are ubiquitous; currently there 6 billion of them. In fact, there are more people who own mobile phones today than there are those who own toothbrushes. We carry them with us everywhere, have our most personal of all information on them, and some claim they can’t live without them.
Research reveals less than half of smartphone users actually use their handsets for calling. The 2012 study British cellphone technology company SecurEnvoy reveals 66% of the mobile users suffer from Nomophobia ie. the fear of being without a mobile phone or out of mobile contact range.
A respected journalist, a digital pioneer and netiquette specialist, Steven Petrow outlines just how stressful communicating in the digital age is: anything you share online can be re-posted in other people’s networks and spread like wildfire.
“In the digital age, how we post, tweet, text and otherwise communicate is immensely complicated despite its relative ease. With one wrong click, you can make a faux pas that goes viral in moments – and lasts forever.”
Addiction in a mobile world is a reality. The brain’s dopamine system allows humans to experience pleasure and reward, but people who are addicted to the Internet have fewer, or impaired, dopamine receptors, making it difficult to feel rewards without extra effort. The more users view their phone’s menu screens, news, e-mail and apps throughout the day the more addicted they become. Nomophobia: Disconnect and Detox
Making resolutions to change behavior are common at New Years and some companies are taking steps to help wean employees from their electronic devices.
Pssst! Did you know that in December 2011, Brazil passed a law that makes it legal for workers who deal with emails after hours to claim overtime pay?
Psst! Did you know that Matt Cutts of Google took a digital vacation? Taking a week off from the interent
Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days
During the Christmas holiday season my psychologist friends arrived to spend their 10 day digital detox of 2012 in their off-the-grid cabin. For the last three years they have set aside 20 days each year in two 10 day blocks in August and December to deliberately digitally disconnect and naturally reconnect with nature and with their islander friends. Additionally, throughout the year, they also schedule mini digital detox vacations on long weekends. That’s not to mention that they do make the time for solitude in every day of their lives.
No email contact and digital connections to work, colleagues, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest etc. did result in a relaxing holiday, but it took them 3 – 4 days to detach and the withdrawal time has not varied over the course of these past three years.
During their cold turkey withdrawal days they have used pen and paper to record each time they felt compelled to make the digital connection but resisted the urge. The pair are intent on recording how being both connected 24/7 and disconnected 24/7 affects them for an upcoming book, a self-help book aimed at encouraging IT professionals to make a place for solitude in their lives.
Connected, but alone?
Jean sent me the link to the TED Talks video Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? video and I’m now looking forward to reading the book featured in it. In Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, Turkle supports dialog on the role solitude plays in conscious living. She writes:
“We recreate ourselves as online personae and give ourselves new bodies, homes, jobs, and romances. Yet, suddenly, in the half-light of virtual community, we may feel utterly alone. As we distribute ourselves, we may abandon ourselves. Sometimes people experience no sense of having communicated after hours of connection. And they report feelings of closeness when they are paying little attention. In all of this, there is a nagging question: Does virtual intimacy degrade our experience of the other kind and, indeed, of all encounters, of any kind?”
Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?
In places where digital saturation is greatest, there are people—especially the young—who are asking the hard questions about costs, about checks and balances, about returning to what is most sustaining about direct human connection.
Disconnecting, Solitude and Reconnection
Leo Babauta’s 15 Ways to Create an Hour a Day of Extra Time … for Solitude are ways and means to provide you with the ability to make time for solitude to reflect on your life. Reducing your Internet use will force you to use the time you do use the Internet more productively … you can still do the things you love to do, but you have to use them in a more focused way.
“Solitude is a lost art in these days of ultra-connectedness, and while I don’t bemoan the beauty of this global community, I do think there’s a need to step back from it on a regular basis.” — the lost art of solitude
Does solitude have a place in your life?
“There is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.
From the outside, solitude and loneliness look a lot alike. Both are characterized by solitariness. But all resemblance ends at the surface.
Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing.
Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself.” — What Is Solitude?
“To summarize: Online connections are a poor man’s replacement for face to face, physical world, interactions. Had I read that yesterday, many teachers would have stood up and shouted, “Amen!” Certainly everyone would read that and relate or agree to various degrees. But…” Overcoming Digital Dualism
We all need to digitally disconnect and enjoy some solitude every day to remain balanced. Disconnecting from technology to daydream, meditate, pray, chant, take a walk, ride a bike, stroll along a beach, watch a sunset or do absolutely nothing at all are effective stress reducers. They are life savers for me. How about you? Does solitude have a place in your life?
- Driving us apart (kernelmag.com)
- Places we don’t want to go: Sherry Turkle at TED2012 (ted.com)
- Taking time for ourselves (mindfulbalance.org)
- More About Solitude (christopherscottblog.typepad.com)
- learn & love: be okay with solitude (thejolynproject.com)
- 100 Days of Wisdom: Wisdom Day 67 – The Remedy, Refuge and Wisdom of Solitude (wisdominthewhisper.com)
- Solitude (eremophila.wordpress.com)