If you’re anything like me, your life is full of various distractions. Well, ok, maybe not as filled with distractions as mine but they are there nonetheless. In our modern society, there are any number of things vying for attention at any given time. From the latest movie that’s been released into theaters, to the newest & hottest comedian that’s arrived onto the scene to the various social networking sites such as Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr; there is always something around the corner looking to grab our attention. Such is the nature of living in our modern society with technology that enables us to be connected 24/7 with anyone anywhere in the world. This can be both a blessing and a curse since it means that when we want to reach out and touch someone, they are only a few keystrokes or a button press away but there is also a dark side to it like anything else…
Thanks to the advent of high speed Internet connections with their blazing fast speeds has enabled and allowed us to do a lot more than was possible before. In today’s world, there is always something going on somewhere in the world which means that there is always something to be reported. When the CNN cable news channel was first launched on June 1980, it was quite a sight to behold. Up until that point, nobody was reporting on what was happening in the world at all hours of the day. For the majority of us, we received our news via such as mediums as the local or national news on television or the morning newspaper which reported on the previous day’s events. Now with the advent of CNN, if something happened in the Middle East, we could & would hear about it as instantaneously as it happened. No longer would we have to wait until it was reported by our local or national news station nor would we have to possibly wait until the next day to read about it. It is thanks to advancements such as this that our previously huge world became that much smaller.
Now with the creation of the global information network known as the Internet, reporting of the news and happenings around the world became that much more instantaneous. If one had a decently reliable connection to the internet & enough know-how to construct a rudimentary web page with pictures, they too could report on any news that they came upon. This of course lead to the proliferation of hundreds upon thousands of various web pages that were dedicated to reporting on the news for various industries and interests which lead to our already small world to become that much smaller and closer to us. Interested in computers or video games, now you could go online and find out the latest scoop on what hot titles were in development or what hot new technology was coming down the pipe. If you wanted to know about something, nearly anything in fact, you just needed to go online and look long and hard enough and you would surely find the information.
With all of this connectedness also came the ability for individual people to connect themselves. Since the global network known as the Internet never shuts down or sleeps, this meant that if you and someone else you wanted to communicate with had a connection with a computer you could both communicate easily. This of course started with email which allowed us to quickly send so-called letters or messages to anyone with an Internet connection and they would receive it just as quickly as we could compose the message and push send. Soon after this came Instant Messaging services which allowed us to privately connect to anyone using the same service and to quickly and instantly communicate with one another. What a concept! Imagine being able to go online and see your buddy who is thousands of miles away on the other side of the country or globe and instantly be able to communicate no matter what time of the day it was in each of your local vicinities. This advancement meant that barriers such as geographic proximity along with time and distance were no longer factors in being able to reach out and instantly communicate with another person. Freaky isn’t it?
Following all of this of course was the creation of social networks which started with sites such as Friendster and Myspace and Twitter. What these sites allowed, especially Friendster & Myspace, was the ability to further keep in touch with friends and family around the world. With these sites you could now easily stay in contact with one another and also keep up to date with what is happening asynchronously. Basically, you don’t need to be online at the same time to stay in touch with each other and know what the other person is doing nor do you need to be connected to share stuff such as photos and send messages(you didn’t need to be online at the same time to do email either but you get my point). With the introduction of Facebook, this further entrenched the idea of staying in touch with friends and family all over the world as well as re-connecting with long lost people that you thought you’d never get in touch with again. Of course Facebook also re-introduced & integrated the concept of instant messaging into their website which allows for synchronous communications between people when both are online at the same time which was quite a boon for a lot of people. In fact, with the introduction & integration of instant messaging, you no longer needed to have separate accounts for email & instant messaging nor did you need to have a separate program installed to utilize either, you could do it all from the same place! How nice it would be to be able to do everything social from one place right…?
So with all of this stated, I’m sure you’re wondering where the dark side is? The ability to learn about new information as soon as it becomes available at any time of the day, no matter where you are is certainly a good thing right? Also, isn’t it even better that you can communicate with friends and family around the world whenever & wherever you both are? The answer to both questions is undoubtedly yes, because not having barriers to either is certainly a good thing. Being able to learn about new happenings around the world and being able to communicate with people across far distances has enabled things far greater than we could possibly imagine. But like with anything else there is a darker side to all of this connectedness.
As I previously mentioned, the benefits of being so connected meant that the news of what’s happening around the world or what’s being discovered would no longer wait until the next day before you or anyone else found out about it. The ability to communicate with anyone anywhere at anytime was no longer constrained by geographic proximity or time of day either now. But these very things that are beneficial to us also present their own set of challenges. Having instant access to all of this wealth of information at any time can sometimes lead us to become overwhelmed with too much information. Sometimes knowing too much or being able to know about what is happening around us can be a distraction in and of itself. Do we really need to know about the war going on in the Middle East? Do we really need to know about the murders going on in New York? Is it really necessary to know every minute detail about the production of our favorite upcoming movie/game/book? Do we benefit from knowing what our former high school friends or ex-girlfriend/boyfriend is doing?
These questions I’ve posed are the very distractions that can arise from being so utterly connected to information that is easily accessible at our every whim. It is very easy to get caught up in the drama of a moment that has nothing to do with ourselves or directly impacts us. Sometimes knowing too much about something, anything for that matter causes us to lose that sense of wonder that we would otherwise gain by anticipating the moments. This is especially true when dating, since it is very easy and tempting to go and look for information about the person we are interested and wind up rifling through their posts which include text or pictures of who they are with and what they are doing. Next thing you know, you find yourself obsessing over minute details of what they post or write about that you would otherwise not have known had you not seeked out any information about them. This is especially dangerous because the very thing that allows us to become connected with others also facilitates our disconnection from those we want to be close with.
Given this fact, why would we ever need to converse with someone about what has been happening in their lives if we could easily read what they wrote on their personal profile or look at their pictures? For some of us out there, it even enables us to cyber-stalk someone without the other person knowing that we are doing such a thing. In fact, it allows us to basically get to know at least what that other person puts out there on their social network or the Internet at large which allows us to feel like we know a lot more about the person than we actually do. This very fact that we can find out this kind of information is what causes each of us as individuals to become disconnected to the people we want to be closest to or that we should be closest to. A relationship or friendship isn’t just a way one stream of information with minimal interaction from the other party nor is it generally a passive experience where we are just casual observers of events or things happening in the other person’s life. Friendships & intimate relationships are all about the 2-way communication and interaction that is supposed to happen. It’s about sharing experiences & moments together rather than being passive observers or viewers in each other’s lives.
As previously mentioned, all of this information overload also causes us to feel disconnected in the sense that we see what is happening around us that we aren’t potentially participating in. Who in their right mind doesn’t want to participate in great things such as the discovery of a new element or creating the next big blockbuster movie or be there to share a friend or relative’s birthday? As I mentioned earlier, we as people are meant to be together and interact with one another and share the experiences and moments together, not just be passive observers or viewers. It can be greatly disconnecting when we become those very passive observers or viewers of events around us. And sometimes it just can’t be helped that we aren’t able to participate in events that we would like to. This doesn’t mean that we should absolutely disconnect ourselves from our friends and family or the world that we aren’t immediately surrounded by but we should be mindful of the fact that we can’t be everywhere at the same time. We choose to be exactly where we want to be in our lives and participate in the very things that we prioritize as important, so we shouldn’t ever feel like we are missing out on things unless it is absolutely out of our control. And if we are missing out on the events and things that we deem are most important in our lives, we need to ask ourselves why this is happening? Maybe we aren’t making the effort to connect with those people or things that we feel are important or aren’t making enough of an effort to participate. Maybe we purposely choose to isolate ourselves from those very things around us for whatever reason, nonetheless it is up to us to figure out and understand why we have made the choices that we have.
For myself personally, I recently chose to abstain from the social network Instagram for approximately one week which started on Monday evening(11/25). I chose to abstain from this social network because I found myself slowly but surely getting caught up in the drama and so-called excitement of seeing what everyone around me was posting that was happening around them or in their own personal lives. In fact, admittedly there was a beautiful young woman that caught my eye on there that I found myself slowly but surely admiring more and more everyday which was starting to become an un-healthy little obsession. Those of you that know me, know that I don’t cyber-stalk anyone and I certainly wasn’t doing it in this case but I certainly could acknowledge that I was using this social media platform to get a peek into this person’s life and “getting to know them” and what they do when in reality all that was happening is that I was looking at the pictures they posted. There is certainly nothing wrong with admiring someone that we are interested in as long as we keep things in perspective and eventually move into action but sometimes the advent of relatively anonymous connection & interaction with people can cause even the best of us to do the opposite of that.
Ever since I chose to temporarily disconnect from Instagram however, I started to see how obsessed I was starting to become with not only this person but what’s not happening in my own life overall. At first I thought disconnecting from Instagram would be a lot more difficult than it turned out to be and that I would feel really disconnected from things since I regularly interact with others on that site as well as Twitter but the opposite was true. Ever since I disconnected from Instagram, I found myself more connected with people around me and living in the moment more than ever. Rather than trying to document what was happening in my own life through pictures and passively observing what others were doing, I was being involved in my own life. I started to celebrate being with people and interacting and sharing moments with them rather than trying to capture them and share them with the rest of the world to see. My own feelings of insecurity and inadequacy slowly started to dissipate back down to more normal levels and I largely stopped feeling like what I was doing was un-important or insignificant.
Don’t get me wrong however, I will be back on Instagram shortly but this was certainly an eye-opener for me. This abstinence from Instagram has helped me to put things into perspective and allowed me to examine how I saw my own life. Rather than allowing myself to be distracted by everything that was happening to others around me and attempting to share what was happening with me, I became much more involved in my life as it happened. What a great feeling it is to be participating again and doing things that I truly enjoy rather than attempting to keep up with the other Netizens. When I eventually re-connect back to Instagram, I’m sure some old habits will still be around but I’ll be more aware of them and be taking more proactive steps to ensure that things don’t get as bad as they did before I abstained. In addition, I will also use this experience & knowledge gained to ensure that I don’t fall into the same traps with the other social networks I regularly interact within such as Facebook & Twitter.
Going forward, I think this abstinence from one social network such as Instagram has made me more aware of how I utilize the Internet to access information. I think it is a great and necessary step that was taken for my own life and will probably benefit others who are experiencing something similar in their own lives. I encourage you to do the same if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with information or getting caught up in everything around you rather than living your own life at this very moment. Don’t miss out on the best time(s) of your life, as it is the only one you have to live!