The Paradox of Connectedness

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Why is it hard to be by yourself?

The Paperbark Forest: Agnes Waters

I had the house to myself last night and let me tell you, things were quiet. Personally, I relish these rare moments of peace in my busy household, but there have been many a time when I have been afraid to be left alone – afraid mostly, of where my thoughts would run to.

We spend so much time together, that when we are alone, we aren’t sure what to do with ourselves. We often don’t stop to look around, to wonder. In moments of stillness, we play music to drown out the sounds of our own thoughts.

This is what has become of our generation, so consumed by our consumption of things, that we are conditioned to never be happy with where we are now.

Not only do we over consume foods, clothing, and everyday items, but we are forever in an unconscious drive for more, one that is accelerated by advertising and our social media accounts.

We are flooded with images of things we don’t have that we should buy -new clothes, a better car, expensive bags, shoes. And when we have a moment of down time, we spend it scrolling through images of others living their lives to their fullest (or so their Instagram posts suggest).

In fact, we are so connected to one another, that we are becoming disconnected. This is something that I often ponder about. Growing up in the 21st century meant that we millennials connect to one another in different ways. We grew up with smart phones, which means that the way we relate to one other is largely reliant on texting and through social media accounts. It’s not our fault, in fact, we are blessed to live in a time with such extensive technological opportunities.

But our connectedness comes with a price. Psychologists have found that increased social media use leads to lower wellbeing (1), but lower wellbeing does not lead to an increase in social media use (2). In an undeniable correlation, teen suicide rates, along with the number of teenagers with clinical depression have increased by over 50%.

More and more so is our work becoming technologically based rather than social-based. This is at no fault of our own, but only means that if we are spending much of our leisure time online, and are are missing out on essential leisure time for everything else.

In 2017, a study by Huawei and Decibel Research found that the average Australian spends 2.5 hours per day on their phone. Now that doesn’t sound like very much, but this adds up to 38 days per year spent on your mobile device. 38 days!!! That’s insanity. Whether it’s hanging out with friends, driving around aimlessly, watching the stars or getting back into that fitness regime, imagine all that you could achieve with an extra 38 days per year.

So today, I’m challenging you to spend a day free from all this “connection.” When you have a spare moment, notice how you may instinctively reach for your phone for comfort. Notice this, and instead, sit with your thoughts. Ponder with them. Embrace them. Relish them.

Notice the amount of time you spend using technology unnecessarily. Notice this, and then embrace the copious amount of free time that you are suddenly blessed with when you give yourself a day off.

Maybe you have time to read that book you’ve been meaning to, or paint a new masterpiece. Maybe you’ll learn a new language, practice some music, or do some yoga. If you find you have absolutely nothing to do, then go for a walk down by the river or the beach.

I’m challenging you to find solace in the peace and quiet. Spend time with yourself, because you need it and you deserve it.  

“I once read that people who study others are wise but those who study themselves are enlightened”.”
― Robin S. Sharma 

In particular, with certain levels of stress surrounding COVID-19 and its repercussions, it is increasingly important to take an occasional break to disconnect. Although it may be tempting to turn to Instagram or Facebook for comfort when social gatherings have been restricted, notice how these interactions are scarcely as fulfilling as a phone call or coffee date. Rather than observing what others are doing through a screen, take this pandemic as an opportunity to reconnect with those close to you and to reconnect with yourself.

Most importantly, remember to spend time in nature. The vastness of your surroundings will humble your soul. Even the contemplation of the smallest flower may bring you back to your inherent connectedness with the earth.

Today we live dangerously far away from this life. We are so out of touch with nature, that we often forgo time outdoors to sit inside and stare at screens. We watch movies or documentaries about people or animals in the natural world instead of actually living in it.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

It may be unnecessary to remove your accounts altogether, but perhaps when you open one of your social apps, notice how you are feeling. If your mind is like a garden, what are you planting in it? Are you filling it with weeds, or are you planting seeds of positivity and light?

Perhaps if something on your news feed is making you feel unhappy, or not necessarily something you need to be engaged with then a simple unfollow will relieve you of some troubles. Social media can just as easily be used to share creativity and spread positivity, so fill your newsfeeds with honest messages that enhance your being. Use your power of connectedness to lift up those around you, to share your passions and to inspire others to do the same. Perhaps then, once our seeds begin to grow, it won’t be so hard to be by ourselves. 

References

  1. Shakya HB, Christakis NA. Association of Facebook Use With Compromised Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Feb 1;185(3):203-211. doi: 10.1093/aje/kww189. PMID: 28093386.
  2. Kross E, Verduyn P, Demiralp E, Park J, Lee DS, Lin N, et al. (2013) Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. PLoS ONE 8(8): e69841. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069841

Tiffany Dunhttp://thebullsheetcomau.wordpress.com
Master of Science (Marine Biology)

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