Is Connected the New Alone?

I was raised in an uber Christian family, in the 1950’s—that’s probably redundant since most American Christian families of that era resided in zealotsville. Biblical stories, superstitions and rhetoric—carefully explaining right from wrong, unsoiled from tainted, good from evil—were the glue of our society.  They informed the monsters under our beds and the fairies in our gardens; collectively they were the cornerstones of our psyches as we grew and flourished in our black and white world.

 It seems that part of this legacy is questioning change—forever judging new ideas and technologies, as good or evil. Then again questioning change may simply be inherent to humanity…

 2,400 years ago Plato said, “Writing is all very well and good, but it’s going to destroy people’s memories,” as reading and writing moved into the mainstream. Fact: People no longer memorize lengthy verses of poetry or hours of folklore. Where would we be, however, if literacy were not a daily part of life?

 Later in the 18th century, Alexander Pope said: “If man was meant to fly, God would have given him wings.” I suppose if one determines that our world should look precisely as it did on the 7th day of creation, there is some logic in this statement—at least as much logic as there is in the 7 day creation story.

 Within my lifetime, my grandmother—a woman well worth quoting—warned, “Television will rot your brains,” as well as, “Food should never be stored in plastic!” The jury remains out on the TV warning. And while my sister thinks the latter admonition may have been more related to our mother being a Tupperware dealer than intuition, current studies show plastic to be a bad choice for food storage, leading me to believe: It is important to question innovations.

 My point is, there exists this dichotomy: It’s as human to question and resist innovative thought and technologies, as it is to pursue them. They are the forbidden fruit—equally repellent and irresistible—and we are the Garden of Eden’s children. The challenge: We can’t really assess the forbidden fruits—or put them in their proper place within our lives or society—until we’ve tried them.

 You can call me Eve; it’s fine.

 So my burning question is this: Can we move forward into places we’ve never been before—using (even abusing) these amazing new tools and toys—and find a middle of the road prior to unraveling some of the essential threads of the fabric of society?

 That’s what my blog is about: The wireless, mind-boggling, rapidly evolving, high-tech, world we now live in and the many ways that it has transformed our social landscape—even the way we express ourselves in print IMHO.

Here we are, living in a world where massive information—more than we will absorb in a lifetime—is as far away as our Google access; a world where we can reach out and touch someone 24/7 (thank you AT&T for teaching us that a voice on the phone is actually touching someone!) and a world which—in terms of communication—is now compressed into the size of a neighborhood: A beautiful, ethnically diverse community of Planet Earth citizens.

In so many ways this is a great thing!

There are very few arguments these days. If people disagree, on virtually any subject under the sun—and they happen to be face to face—one swift motion of the left hand produces a smart phone, while the right hand is poised to push buttons, before the phone is visible; Google is a touch away; the argument is resolved.

Information propagation is the new duel—the smart phone the new gun.

And that’s a good thing, for the most part. I think…

But it seems that with the end of arguing about small issues or beliefs we now feel compelled to argue about larger and more personal issues: ideologies, politics and religious beliefs to name a few—often not face to face but remotely, electronically. And I can’t help but wonder if this impersonal communication might have contributed to the division and polarization we’ve watched rapidly increase in our world in recent years. For years now there has been so little eye contact… so few shaky, insecure voices… almost no tired faces, tears, or sighs of exasperation within dialogues. Instead, there have been words on screens and icons expressing the emotions we chose to share.

When did we come to accept the absence of discussion just for the sake of connection and broadening our understanding of one another, choosing sides and becoming adversaries, instead?

After scrubbing and sanitizing our homes and bodies, did we follow suit with our relationships?

I miss casualness. I miss perspiration and laughter and honesty.

In the 70’s, when two or more people gathered together and hung out talking, it was called rapping. There were exchanges of thoughts, beliefs and ideas. There were sometimes heated arguments; there was sharing. Frequently there was too much wine and often the rooms were thick with incense and various types of smoke (Sorry: TMI). The rooms buzzed with energy and emotion but not electronic devices.

I miss the smell of incense and too much wine… I miss that world of smell and touch, of watching people blush and flirt by batting eyelashes…

Chatting is the new rapping. Sigh

The smiley and frownie faces are the new expressions of joy and sorrow in our relationships. Acronyms are the new clichés. Blogging is the new storytelling…

Please understand that I’m not opposed to the new technologies. I am, right now, on my laptop, writing—assisting my of-a-certain-age-post-menopausal brain by fact checking on Google.

Wait a sec… I want to make a comment on my Face Book… My daughter out in Virginia is such a stitch… I love her status updates…

Okay, I’m back.

When I moved to Estonia in 1995, I regularly received 600 dollar a month phone bills for scratchy, barely audible phone conversations with loved ones—which frequently ended in a disconnection. I’m over-the-moon that I can now summon my granddaughter in England to my computer screen in Scotland and tell her how nice she looks in her new uniform before she goes off to school. I love exchanging pictures of our latest adventures with my other kids in the States on the same day of the events.

But every time I sit in a restaurant and watch the smart phones emerge from pockets, or drive in cars where the passengers are working on their iPads or listening to their iPods broadcasting their favorite music or eBook while drivers chat away on their hands free, I miss rapping.

Where has this preoccupation with our technologies brought us?

After learning how to emotionally disconnect from the peers in our cars, was it easier to disconnect from those people? You know who those people are: The less fortunate, the elderly, the dark skinned or light skinned, the immigrants, the sickly… Remember them—the ones that aren’t us? At least not yet…

And where will this new type of electronic connection take the next generation?

Will it be easier to disconnect from global warming and the havoc it’s wreaking on our planet, assuming it’s not in our state? Will wars, poverty and disease be diminished to chats and bulletin boards—or maybe reality TV show—allowing us to ingest juicy bits of carefully selected information about those people?

Okay, I’m going to the dark side… I feel it…

So we continue traveling this road—where technology leaps to new heights daily. We dash blindly forward—hoping to catch up—struggling with the financial burden of doing so.

We upgrade our Smart Phones and laptops; we buy iPads, iPods and Kindles. It’s how we stay current. It’s how we stay connected with one another—at best with a live (albeit fuzzy) image on the screen, but more often through words punctuated by smiley faces with no lines or creases around their mouths and missing the twinkle that lives in a human eye.  We’ve exchanged a cute bear hug for the feeling of flesh and muscle around our shoulders and breath on our necks. We call people we’ve never met our friends. And when we want to end one of these friendships we simply un-friend the offending party with a swish and few taps of our finger. These ex-friends seldom notice our absence because their friends are so abundant that losing one here and there generally goes unnoticed.

Strangers are the new friends. They’re plentiful and expendable.

Why do I miss the pain of breaking up and the joy of reconciliation? That’s just weird. WTF?

Hold on, my daughter in England just came on Skype and I need to set up a good time to see my grandbaby… She’s 3 and growing like a weed… You should hear her little British accent. OMG talk about cute!

Okay, I’m back.

I want this blog to be interactive. I want feedback. I want your assistance. I love this technology. I hate this technology. The Buddha spoke of finding the middle path—the middle of the road. I want to find the middle of this super highway. But navigating is hard when it’s all virgin territory—with no maps or even road signs. Can we find the best of both worlds: A way to enjoy remote connections and limitless information without losing intimacy?

Or will we continue blindly rushing forward—cementing our connection to the world, while becoming increasingly isolated?

Is this new technology the monster under our bed? Is it Armageddon? Or is it the fairies dancing in our garden? …or is it simply a neutral offering created by our collective intelligence—a gift from the universe—awaiting our response? Might we be the judge and jury deciding whether it’s a blessing or a curse, good or evil, black or white. What will we decide? Will we find a balance? How? What are your thoughts?

This is Holly Morrison signing off with an LOL

[On the old planet that meant lots of love—and so it does tonight!]

11 responses to “Is Connected the New Alone?

  1. In the last week I have made a point to eschew TV, constant aural assault by radio, more than a brief check of FB or email once or twice a day. In exchange, I am noticing the shapes of trees, becoming more coherent in my thoughts, more creative, and more grateful for simple things that last. I like this.

  2. Well done, Elaine! I am limiting my time online to “only when I’m working (writing).” But I still check email from time to time. It really is a suck hole for me. I think I have an addictive type personality but I know I’m not alone.

  3. This is wonderful, Holly!

  4. I love the way we all can be connected through our devices where ever we are but like you said, maybe we have gone overboard with this connectivity!? I know I spend way to much time infront of my computer, Ipod or just having the Wi Fi finding my Samsung telephone any where because I dont want to miss anyone or anything!

    • I totally agree, Maria. I guess that was the point of that blog. I love these technologies and never want to go back but want to find a middle of the road where I also enjoy friends and events in person, in real time… 🙂 How are you guys BTW?

  5. Hi! We are doing well! Oliver and I are leaving for Sweden tomorrow and then off to Teneriffe for Christmas together with my mom! I am so looking forward to some relax time and sunshine because I have been working pretty hard in the last couple of weeks at school! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to both of you!!

  6. I like your title. Do you think it suggest alienation (or self-imposed electronic exile maybe? *shrugs*)? I like to have the use of online technology for meeting people. I love how you communicate your longing for a certain time in how people communicate (rapping, that’s such a cool word for “chatting”) and of missing “…the smell of incense and too much wine… that world of smell and touch, of watching people blush and flirt by batting eyelashes.” Sigh. Me too Holly! But, I also love “connecting” with new friends, such as yourself and look forward to meeting you one day soon. Like your, I too wonder what this electronic “soul-connection” will mean for future generations. I can only hope that the voices of wisdom, the electronic gatekeepers like yourself and others (who I envision as online priestesses/priests of the modern day Oracle of Delphi) will bring to this ever expanding space of time, place and reality in cyberspace. I don’t know for sure, but this one thing I do know … it’s great to meet you here and I love your cyber-flow!

  7. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I too LOVE this technology. It has enriched my life in so many ways—far beyond allowing me to be in touch with my family and loved ones all over the world. I love meeting new people, sharing ideas… having all of the research in the world at my fingertips… all of it. There is just so much that’s good in these new technologies; there’s no denying that! But I do feel like we all have to become the “gatekeepers” (LOVE that word and imagery BTW) because it’s so new and we simply don’t where it will go if left to its own devices (so to speak). I lived in the days of rampant antibiotic use, when they were still in their infancy… We had no idea of the anti-biotic resistant monsters that we were creating; we were just blown away by the lives we were saving. We truly thought if a little was good, a lot was better… There is always the need to move ahead with new technologies but to do so cautiously and that’s the hard part. We become so exuberant with our new “toys” that we can’t imagine a downside. But moving forward slowly, giving ourselves the time to suss these technologies out—seeing how they are impacting humanity—and consciously deciding what part they should play in our future (or even what we want our future to look like) just makes sense to me. It’s such an exciting and challenging time but I think we’re up for it. I have so much faith in so many of your generation. You guys are asking questions and tackling problems that my generation never dreamt of. Thank you! XXOO

  8. Where we stand depends on where we sit, eh? (Who said that? … Lemme Google it…) Those of us who are cut off from family and friends by distance and situation see, perhaps most acutely, the benefits as well as the drawbacks of the new communication technologies. Sometimes I imagine living within a city block of all my dear ones … and then I see the drawbacks of that as well. 😉

    • I think that’s definitely a piece of the puzzle. However I’ve had loved ones sit on their phones and laptops/tablets when we were physically reunited after months/years of separation. At that point I think it’s simply habit and a lack of comfort with one on one REAL encounters. There’s also something undeniably appealing about virtual relationships vs. Real ones: one can represent oneself however one wishes.

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