Connecting Consciously

Today our culture moves at a hundred miles a minute. iPhones and uninterrupted internet access bring us continuous entertainment and connection to our jobs—we are constantly “connected”. However, being connected oftentimes means we become disconnected from the present moment in lieu of a more stimulating option. We are increasingly connected to our worlds, as they exist on our phones and computers, but increasingly disconnected from the moment. When we find ourselves bored, we pull out our small rectangular security blankets to escape.

Stefana Broadbent argues in her that the internet and cell phones promote intimacy. She says that we use our constant connectivity to communicate with the select few people that are closest to us. According to Broadbent, technology has allowed us to bring the private sector—our family and friends— with us to work and school, so that we can remain engaged with those we love throughout the day. While I do agree with this in some ways, I would argue that technology also gets in the way of connecting with those same people. With constant access to our phones, work is no longer left at the office—it invades quality relaxation time with those we love. And, we often choose to scroll through our Facebook and Instagram feeds rather than engage with the family or friends sitting right next to us. How we use technology can influence whether it promotes intimacy or hinders it.

While studying abroad for four months with extremely limited device usage, I discovered how reliant I had been on my phone. Without constant access to social media and texting I was forced to live in the moment, and forced to be “bored” every once and a while. But rather than allowing myself to feel bored, I took in what was around me and found a sense of enjoyment. Those moments were opportunities to observe people, read a book or just appreciate my surroundings. Without access to the world of the internet, I was able to enjoy the world of real life. And, I also became keenly aware of how many people were not connecting, but were glued to their phones instead.

Like most everyone today, I am guilty of using my phone to disengage. During class breaks I often check my phone rather than chat with people next to me. If I’m uncomfortable or bored, my thumb scrolls Facebook, Instagram and email, even if I know there isn’t going to be anything new in the five minutes since I last checked. It’s almost a reflex—I find myself disengaging automatically and unintentionally.

Given that it’s so easy to pick up a phone and tune out, being present requires intentionality. And although this type of intentionality might not have been required of people even a decade ago, being truly present in our lives has always required being purposeful.

My favorite movie, , encourages viewers to be present in their day-to-day. The main character is able to travel back in time within his life. The takeaway is to live with intentionality and enjoy the present as fully as possible, regardless of how seemingly mundane or frustrating that it may be. He says, “I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”

Technology or not, it’s easy to take the little moments in life for granted. It’s easy to go through a day without appreciating the precious moments that it offers. Our phones give us an easy way to detach from our surroundings, but it’s always been possible to ignore the extraordinary, ordinary moments that happen to us each day. Now more than ever, we have to consciously choose what connections we make and how we can best use our time to be, and stay, connected.

Here are some common sense suggestions to consciously connect:

  1. Use your phone to stay connected to the people you love and let them know that you love them
  2. When you are with those people put your phone away
  3. Let yourself be bored once in a while
  4. Leave your phone at home now and then; make a point of “unplugging”
  5. Enjoy the simple moments in your day; don’t always try to fill quiet with productivity

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