How much do you multitask? Are you doing it now? Do you do it when you are with others?
Blaming technology is like blaming guns for our murder rates – we pull the triggers and push the send keys. Yet, our growing addiction to ‘connecting’ through technology is taking us out of what it is to be human. As with any addiction, we go to our substance to avoid a situation or feeling.
Sherry Turkle, Ph.D., a Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, in her new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other ,argues that we aren’t connecting when we are using social media, texting or all the other electronic communication forms. Rather, we are avoiding.
When we left the tribes 10,000 years ago to plow the fields, then the homes to go to work 250 years ago, and now our lives to text, we progressively lost face-to-face connections. Because this progression is like the air we breathe, we don’t realize its impact. Because everyone around us is doing it, we don’t realize we have lost, not only, the opportunities to deeply connect – we have also lost the skill to do so.
Turkle’s TED video is an articulate plea to put down our devices and connect. But, we don’t want to. If we did, we would be alone. As she points out, being willing to be alone with yourself is the first step to connecting with others. You can’t be anymore connected with another than you are with yourself.
A short cut to connecting
Part of the panic, of not connecting electronically and being alone, is that we have never really been alone—neither have our parents, or their parents… The silence of solitude brings up what we never saw modeled for us. We don’t know ‘what to do’ when alone. As Turkle mentions, our youngest generation is the embodiment of “I share therefore I am”.
Buried deep in our genome is our need and ability to connect. Our ancestors shared everything with their tribe, including their partners, as Christopher Ryan, PhD describes in his book, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. This worked because they communicated.
I’m not advocating group sex as the connector. I’m advocating micro-communities, where we teach each other these forgotten skills. For fifteen years, I’ve lead and taught other men to lead men’s groups. These groups have the capacity to draw out the need, and then, the skills of relating to another face-to-face. After six months in one of these groups, we hear how a man’s relationships are transformed. He tells us that his wife and kids are connecting with him more – because he’s connecting with them.
We need to connect in a way that we aren’t removed and in control, or where our imperfections can’t be deleted. As we learn that others accept us, in spite of our flawed communication and presentation, we relax. We grow to like ourselves, then others more. That acceptance draws others into our world, where they experience more acceptance and deeper communication.
After reading this and watching the video, do one act of face-to-face communication. Take a risk. Go speak to the person closest to you about something that is personal. Ask him or her a personal question, then relax and savor his or her response.
Up your connecting game and join, or if you need to, start a micro-community. If you’re a guy, find or start a men’s group. Use technology to support your deepening of relationships. Use it to form your micro-community.
Let us know what your first act is. Let us know about your micro-community.