Addicted: I Share, Therefore I Am
All of Humanity’s problems stem from man’s inhability to sit quietly in a room alone
All of Humanity's problems stem from man's inhability to sit quietly in a room alone — Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)
A couple of days ago, as I was walking down the street, I started looking at the stores. I was not looking to buy anything, but to see people inside the shops, particularly the vendors who were alone. I was surprised to see everyone hooked up to their cell phones. I watched a minute, four minutes, ten minutes and kept my surprise. Customers entering the stores interrupted the vendors’ connections, their time with ‘themselves’, that moment of ‘loneliness with others’.
Their days were being connected, choppy with their work. Our life is to be connected, haunted by our families.
I then remembered a quote from Lorenzo Vilches in his book Television quoting someone else saying that television is a continuous stream of advertising hampered by programs. And not the other way around as I had always thought! The customers, for the salespeople, were pauses in their connection and the connection was their real time for them. The reverse of what I thought! The world changed in front of my nose in those minutes. I had seen it with my own eyes.
I walked back to the office and on that way I joined the Matrix. Once inside I found a Ted Talk by Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? She said things like this:
And what I have discovered is that our little devices, those little devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful that they not only change what we do, they change who we are.
People tell me about the new and important skill of making eye contact while texting.
We walk away from our pain or our daydreaming and go to our phones.
I think we are getting into problems, problems certainly in how we relate to each other, but also problems in how we relate to ourselves and our capacity for self-reflection.
We are getting used to a new way of being alone.
Through the generations, I see that people cannot get enough of each other, if and only if they can have each other at a distance, in amounts they can control. I call it the Goldilocks effect: not too close, not too far, fair.
Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I would like to learn how to have a conversation. Human relationships are rich and messy and demanding. And we clean them with technology.
And we use conversations with each other to learn to have conversations with ourselves.
That feeling that nobody is listening to me is very important in our dealings with technology.
And I think it is because technology attracts us more where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We feel alone, but we fear privacy.
Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved. And people try to solve it by connecting.
I share, therefore I exist. If we cannot be alone, we will be more alone. And if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to feel alone. Feeling lonely is different from being alone. We must learn to be alone. It is essential for working life, to know what to do, how to do, where to go, to listen. Being alone is a good thing. In solitude we learn to listen. There we can recognize our vulnerability. And that’s good, very good.
We have to connect with the avatar within us, not with someone else’s avatar online. We need to be disconnected to re-learn how to flow. Otherwise, customers will continue to hinder our loneliness as work days will obstruct our life. If connectivity is important, anything other than that will be an outage.
We need to have conversations with others again to learn to dialogue with ourselves. And then we will positively change our relationships with others and with ourselves.