Crying out for connection: technology and us
The mobile phone has well and truly entered our lives. It has become both a desirable fashion item and a must-have accessory for instant connection. We no longer need a telephonist to say those vital words: “Please hold the line and I will connect you, madam.”
A recent article in The Guardian bemoans the way the intense attachment to the mobile phone is destroying the possibility of great connection and conversation at restaurant and domestic dinner tables across the land. At any given table there are those who have a phone on their laps, those who have one right next to their plate, those who hold a phone in one hand while they wield a fork, and those who turn their heads from the table as they launch into a consuming, animated conversation. All true connection and warm exchange with fellow diners and waiters falters as everyone looks away or down, eyes glued to the screen or gazing distractedly out into space.
Bogart’s famous line, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’ no longer applies.
The article goes on to say that this way of relating isn’t necessarily about preferring to talk to particular people who aren’t at the table – since if the latter were at the table, the phone would probably be used to communicate with a whole new set of distant people . . . concluding that the phone habit is about our ‘preferred distance from the human race’.
Something is going on here and we have all registered it. What does this distance signify?
Is this about wanting to be somewhere else, anywhere else, rather than feeling and living in our own body, connecting to the people we are with now – or perhaps imagining that the grass is greener somewhere else?
Or could it be that socialising, interacting with and relating to people once-removed can seem somehow ‘safer’ and more manageable, relieving us of any danger of real intimacy or the possibility of being hurt by another – given the past hurts that we carry?
And will this obsession with technology lead to us living a ‘virtual’ life where no physical interaction is required, while at the same time appearing as if we are ’living’ a valid life – going through the motions, faking it with flair, playing out our role on screen, never believing we will finally exit stage left, a mere shadow of our former lives?
- Can this be termed ‘progress’?
- Can virtual relationship be a real substitute for looking into another’s eyes, feeling the magic in the exchange of a glance or the igniting spark of meeting eyes . . . or even feeling the inevitable rawness in a life that is opening up to truly healing and evolving?
We all know the truth of what is going on
There is a telling scene in Madmen where advertising creative extraordinaire, Peggy Olsen, lands the coveted account for Burger Chef. This takes place in the 1960s, well before the advent of the maligned mobile phone. Olsen sets the scene for her clients by describing the typical American dining table, the table where Burger Chef’s customers actually eat – the TV close by, endlessly going, the news or quiz show winning out every night over interaction and conversation. At dinnertime you are starving . . . and not just for dinner.
What if there were another table, asks Olsen, where everyone gets what they want when they want it? It’s bright and clean and there is no telephone and no TV and we can have the connection we are so hungry for. Her parting shot: ‘There may be chaos outside but there is always family supper at Burger Chef’ . . . riding on the seductive cadences of the old song ‘There may be trouble ahead!’, which everyone knew then.
Everyone falls for it, because in fact that is what we are starving for – connection – and we all know it. Even just hearing these words moves Olsen’s advertising clients to tears and will, in turn, seduce the targetted market out there, the people who are desperately crying out for connection and even more desperately crying out for comfort to alleviate the desperation of disconnection.
Is technology and the mobile phone really to blame?
Hasn’t this disconnected way of ‘relating’ been going on for a very long time? The saying about the ‘grass being greener’ for example, has been traced to as early as Ovid (c.73BC).
Our disconnection is not the ‘fault’ of television, the Internet, or the mobile phone and so we cannot lay the blame there – it is simply that the advent of technology is reflecting back to us loud and clear how we are actually conducting our lives, in a way we can no longer ignore … it is totally in our face.
For so long we have used ‘blame’ as a potent weapon to distract us from feeling our inner turmoil. Blame never allows us to reveal what is truly going on. When we blame something or someone it could be almost translated as ‘No no! I do not want to face up to what is happening here’.
Technology is merely an instrument
It is the quality of the way we use technology that is key. Most of us know that there can be something very amiable and companionable sitting side by side on a sofa with a friend doing our emails, spending a few hours with a distant friend on Skype, writing on a project together, or that there can be a truly heart-felt conversation on the phone. The interactive nature of things is not determined by whether or not we are using technology, but whether there is true connection with yourself, your inner-heart, your own body and the other person. Are we interested in growing our relationship with a glorious future, or do we want to retreat, hide away, and lick our wounds?
Starting the New Conversation
So would the conversation, right now, start with cursing the mobile phone and the person glued to it? Or could it start with a willingness to really connect, to share how we are feeling with each other, to express our appreciation of the amazingness of them in our lives – our appreciation for their tender touch, their love and care, their extraordinary ability to fix a computer glitch or to bring the household together, or have fun shopping with, or how they bring awareness to a situation or are the most awesome font of wisdom, and much more.
All this we can bring to life and it may be done on a mobile phone or it may be done in the flesh at that shared dinner table. Whatever the circumstance, it is only the connection and love that counts.
We do not have to wait for someone to say ’Please hold the line and I will connect you madam.’ No, this is a ‘do it yourself’ connection and can be far more beautiful than we ever dream.