Technology is wonderful, but it can get out of hand. When your digital device starts running your life and allocating your time for you, you know there’s a problem. When you stop eating, miss work, don’t sleep, or seek isolation, you know there’s a problem. Connecting excessively to a digital device is a very real problem. It becomes harmful to you and to others.
As we become more dependent on technology with our 24-7 connectivity, some people say the need for physical proximity is less. Technology does allow us to connect and collaborate in new ways, but do we really lose the need to be together and connect person to person? Are you too glued to your gadgets? The next time your airplane lands, watch the passengers race for their phones the second the wheels hit the runway. You would think they had been stuck on a deserted island for six months. If we are not careful, we can fall into a state of addiction and overdose. Why? Think about it this way: what does it require to watch or listen, or to move your thumbs? Basically nothing. Our digital society requires nothing more than passive consumption. We can be constantly connected and never satisfied.
Picture this: You walk into a restaurant for dinner. After ordering, you notice a family of six seated at a nearby table; mom, dad, and four children, all gathered around the table. What happens next is both humorous and sad. Every member of the family grabs his or her mobile phone and begins gaming or connecting to the outside world. Not one word got exchanged between the family members. When the server comes to the table to take the order, no one even looks up. No dinner conversation, no updates of the day’s activities, no warm family interactions. It was just the sound of six people tapping on their mobile phones. There was connection but little connecting.
Unfortunately, most of us need to be warned of digital dangers. There are many fake ways to connect in the twenty-first century that steal our time and destroy our energy. Take full advantage of the technology that is available, but avoid the patterns of addiction and the possibility of a digital overdose. How do you do this? Step back and reflect on your connecting behavior. For each digital connection, what is your return on connection?
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.