Staying Connected…But At What Cost?

Living in a foreign country, far away from those you love and know best, can be challenging at times, (to put it mildly!) You are experiencing a new culture, seeing new things, meeting new people, perhaps learning a new language or a new job. And you are constantly trying to make a life for yourself where you are, and to feel “at home”.

But with modern technology being as it is, you have no problems to forge a new path while also staying connected to those you’ve left behind. Between the 100 online accounts I now maintain regularly, (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, LinkedIn, Gmail, AIM, Skype, Tango, WhatsApp – I think you get the point…) there is never a shortage of ways to connect. I even have the advantage of having people to talk to both in time zones ahead of my own, and way far behind my own so that it seems at any point in time there is always someone around or available to chat, (including where I am in the present moment.)

We Are All Connected - Great Ad Campaign for WWF Mexico

While I have to say I am beyond grateful for technology, and I will be the first person in the world to congratulate the internet for making my life a million times easier, sometimes I wonder what all this connectivity really costs me in terms of living. Am I staying connected to those I love too much, (if there is such a thing)? To the extent that I can’t actually get on with my life and experience new things? Or is the connectivity a welcome reminder that I am loved and that my people do still exist in the world…just not necessarily here?

It’s hard for me to judge how much being plugged in all the time really holds me back, or in some cases even propels me forward. I admittedly, and a bit embarrassingly, crave Facebook. I seek to learn what is going on in the lives of others, or apparently actively search for a way to uselessly waste hours of my time reading about people who don’t have any real impact on my life. So why, if it is such a black hole of time, do I insist on multiple log-ins a day? Just to see if Jane had a wild night out on Saturday? Or if John’s wife finally had her baby?

What is even more disturbing, is that when I actually log out and leave home I don’t think about Facebook. I’m not running on my treadmill at the gym after work desperate to log back in to see if Lady X put up some life-changing new insights. Once I step outside it, I couldn’t care less what is going on in my virtual life. It’s only when you sit me in front of the computer without any real-life distractions, (i.e. a concert…or brunch,) that I can’t seem to turn the interwebs off. When did life become something to be lived virtually instead of in actuality, and is it preventing us from experiencing the world around us?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic. Do you feel too connected? Or does being connected make you feel like you’re living?

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5 responses to “Staying Connected…But At What Cost?

  1. Sometimes I feel too connected. A friend of mine no longer has Facebook, and she makes the point that now when she sees people she actually has stuff to catch up on with them – as opposed to her having read all about it before they had face time. I think it’s something to think about, and I don’t post as much online as I used to for the same reason. I want to have something to talk about when I actually get to spend time with friends and family in person!

    • Is it possible you won’t have anything to talk about when you see friends and family in person??? I kid, I kid 😉 But in all seriousness, I can’t disconnect from Facebook for fear I might lose touch with some people who matter on there. Or even to miss those lost connections with people from your past you really liked but just haven’t talked to recently. That makes social networking valuable to me. The rest is just…well, garbage, really.

  2. “[I]s [the virtual world] preventing us from experiencing the world around us?”

    I think for some people this is definitely the case. Especially now that people have camera phones too. How many posted pix have you seen from somewhere like a pub or a concert or the beach? People should be living in the moment and enjoying their time at the beach. If they’re posting pix to FB, then they’re not getting the most from their time.

    I don’t see anything wrong with posting photos later, though. Many of us treat the internet as a kind of journal. We’re collecting memories in a secondary visual way. We can revisit. It’s for others, but also for us. Maybe more for us.

    • Thanks for stopping by! And yes, I agree – I think we crave being able to share what we experience with others and facebook, or wherever, provides that platform. But I just think it’s so funny to sit in a cafe amongst 30 other people who’s faces are all buried in their own computers. It’s like they are going to the real world to connect with others, but are too afraid to actually let go of the shelter of the anonymous world.

      • You are spot on. Absolutely. No one talks to each other when out and about. Actually, no. The old people talk to other people. Every country I’ve been in the old people start up a conversation. Young people don’t. Sad.

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