We live in a hyper-connected world, which can overwhelm and be stressful even. If you are away from your computer, you are on your phone, if you are away from your phone, you are on your tablet. If you are away from it all, you are watching your TV.
We all know, in today’s day and age, TV is less information, with more focus on Ratings War inundating us with an array of ‘options’ that become overpowering noise that just does not stop.
But does it end there? NO!
You walk into your favorite café or restaurant–even they are playing the latest game, news or event. Everyone is glued to their phone, everyone is calling someone or worse even cafés are now the business-meeting hot-spot.
Whatever happened to being social and relaxed with each other in these venues?
Business, Family, Friends, Neighbors, Acquaintances and now the ‘followers’–everyone wants stay updated with your life. Everyone wants to stay ‘connected’ and everyone wants an ‘Instant’ answer. Yes, I am referring to ‘Instant Messengers’. People judge you if you don’t have one. Recently someone asked me in a total state of shock, ‘What, you don’t use WhatsApp? What happened? How do you stay connected with people? C’mon get with the program man, it is 2019!’
I am not sure when, but they seem to forgot people used to connect over a cup of coffee, a phone call, dinners, walks. Or maybe they have not grown up being connected with real human presence outside their HD smartphone screen.
We claim it connect us while we are hiding behind little devices, texts and digital photos with ‘planned’ expressions.
We now ‘lol’ and ‘brb’ instead of laughing together and excusing ourselves from the conversation.
We are drowning ourselves in the culture of ‘Instant’ reactions. Whatever happened to the times when we gave each other time to think, wrote back to each other in our personal time. To be honest, sometimes, I miss the gold ole-days of ‘Letters’ and ‘Community Meetings’.
We are losing the human-touch and essence in our humanity.
Lovers get upset if we don’t connect them to our ‘social media’ profiles.
Friends get upset if we don’t respond to the ‘online invite’ to an event.
Employees get upset if they were not ‘tagged’ in a ‘groupie’ photo.
Bosses get upset if they suspect a ‘status update’ is about them.
Clients get upset if they don’t get an ‘instant response’ for their query.
Children get upset if we don’t allow them to have their ‘online profile’ until a certain age.
We are all busy getting upset because we want to remain digitally connected, informed and attended. Yet, we are too reluctant to meet for a coffee, sit across a table, spend time together having a face-to-face conversation like the ‘social animals’ we are supposed to be.
AND THAT MY FRIENDS, is DISCONNECTING us from the person inside of us.
This human inside of us is struggling to keep up with the demands of the hyper-connected yet not at all synergetic world. Everyone thinks they know what they want, but no one seems to know or care about what others may desire or feel. Everyone is interested in ‘instant’ gratifications with immediate responses and reactions. No one seems to value the importance of ‘giving it a thought’ and ‘letting the person decide of their free will and interest’.
Somewhere in 2010, I first realized this phenomenon and asked myself, ‘How can I balance things and how can I fulfill the expectations of this hyper-connected world and yet allow myself to enjoy the traditional connections with humans in their flesh-and-bone?’
At first, it seemed difficult because everyone was so ‘connected’ that they would ‘text’ or ‘instant message’ back with ‘I’d love to but I am attending this online event’. This was 9 years ago, and today it has gotten no better, only worse!
But I wasn’t the one to give up nor fall into the trap of ‘digital busy schedules / you have seen my messages / why are you not responding / cannot right now’ responders.
Instead I made a conscious 3-layered decision to ‘Disconnect (from the noise) to Reconnect (with myself and things/people important to me!) in my own way’. Here is what I have been doing ever since whenever I feel the need to balance the hyper-connected with self-connected journey.
1. Limit/Privacy-Prepare/Uninstall/ Instant Apps: Among a plethora of apps available out there, I have chosen to stick to one. But that is not where I stop. I make sure I configure this app with maximum privacy settings and remain offline until I want to be online. Then I also have self-imposed mandatory Uninstall Periods – every month at least for 4 days I uninstall the single Instant App I have. The quiet after that is heavenly! Allow yourself to celebrate the peace and quite and spend some time with yourself. Get to know the person inside you who has grown so much over the years. The person who was hiding behind all the noise and trauma of hyper-connected world.
2. Work By Calendar – Personal or Professional: I stick to the traditional calendar/diary approach in my day to day life. Be it personal or professional, I make time by the diary. Digital world, when used wisely can be amazing in this process. I use an Online calendar tool that allows me to have Paid and Unpaid Appointment options and gives me the ability to show or hide appointment types from public. I use the Paid and Visible appointment types to book clients, and Unpaid and Hidden appointment types for personal contacts. This way, whatever the reason, when we catch-up, we do with our complete focus on each other. You get enough time to prepare for your meeting, be it professional material or personal sentiment that you intend to share during your catch-up. It gives you an opportunity to reach within your being and ready yourself for a constructive, connected and empowered interaction with the other party. You go in with a consciously cultivated energy and excitement. You bring your best to the interaction.
3. Say NO to Distracted Interactions: This was and still is the hardest step but is the most important and healthy step to take if you want to really honor yourself and the other person in the interaction. When I am meant to catch-up with someone, for business or personal reason, first thing I do at the start of the meeting is to announce, that I am turning off my phone and closing browser tabs/apps that are not relevant to that meeting. It is my polite but direct way to ask the other party that I expect the same courtesy from them. I do give everyone an opportunity to understand and honor this.
- In a business meeting – If they do not reciprocate on their own, I simply ask, ‘Could you please close other things and put your phone away while we do this?’
- In a personal meeting – If they don’t get it the first time on their own, I directly urge them to ‘Let’s forget the phones and other things and focus on our conversation here, because this is why we are meeting right now!’
- Or there is NO – and in either case, if the other party does not get it, I opt for the simple 2 letter statement – NO. As Eleni Anastos, founder of Business Insights Now aptly puts it, ‘NO is a complete statement’. If they don’t pay any heed to the no, I politely but firmly excuse myself from the meeting and clearly state, ‘Let’s do this when you can focus because this is as much for you as is for me and I would hate for you to not get complete value from this meeting!’.
- Because, it is about the TWO of you – Yes, this NO is important because you want to be clear, that this is about BOTH of you. Not just you, not just them, but BOTH parties. There is a stronger connection, understanding and agreement when people are focused, present and connected in the conversation they are part of. You are both prepared, involved and excited to be in this together. Because it is about the TWO of you!
In today’s world it may seem difficult or even unnecessary to do so. However, I strongly advocate for this conscious Disconnection from the Public Life, to Reconnection with Yourself so you can connect with others with more synergy, enthusiasm and presence. When you are in touch with yourself, connected to your own being, you have much more value to offer.
It is about honoring the person inside of you.
It is about honoring the person you are interacting with.
It is about honoring the all relationships with intent and choice, with interest.
Feature Photo Courtesy: Oliver Sjöström