IVORY Magazine, social media and internet addiction in psychology and mental health

The cost of constant connection

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All of the creating, connecting, influence to be won, obligations to be met, rough edges to be polished. This is the double-edged sword in an era of hyper-connectivity . The access and opportunity that technology affords us, and the umbilical chord of constant connection that haunts our waking minds with the whispers of hollow mindlessness. It finds me in moments of relative quiet and reflection, a breeding ground for an epic internal battle between an unwritten future and the present. When I finally regain my breath and pull back on the reins to rest in the moment, I often wonder: Is the slow suffocation of presence the true cost of constant connection?

The unspoken expectations of hyper connectivity

In a hustle-first culture and an age of boundless opportunity — one that celebrates “achieve at all cost” as a badge of honor to be worn with pride — is it ever acceptable to admit that we’re tired of plastic-coated engagement or that we crave genuine connection that doesn’t have the echo of ROI following its every step? Somewhere in this race to be heard is an easily-forgotten truth: There is a fine line between opportunity and obsession, hard work and hard falls, being human and being inhumanly productive to the point of losing ourselves in the chase.

And while I recognise with gratitude that the tools of the social Web have positively impacted the way we connect and communicate— I’m also convinced that we don’t often recognise the deeper, underlying cost of our marriage to these things. Some call it F.O.M.O (fear of missing out) — an addiction to the short-term high of validation and a misguided expectation that shutting off somehow equates to being left behind.

For me, the dynamic is simpler and far more dangerous. We don’t strive for constant connection because we’re afraid of missing out. We strive because we’re afraid of being alone with our true selves when the curtains are drawn and the house lights fade.

Why learning to love “what is” should be at the top of the achievement list

I do my best work — both in the name of self care and creativity — by fully immersing myself in the moment, in one step at a time, in the deep breath of the process that can only be found by shutting off and shutting in. I feel truly grounded and humbled when I pause to reflect that connection and community are integral to building a life of true freedom and purpose, but never at the behest of cultivating deeper self awareness that only the present moment can offer.

Which is why I find myself on long walks most days, a ritual of understanding and “peeling back the layers” to shake loose the chains of accomplishment and the pressure of achievement to appreciate all that already is. I walk to witness the natural world in all its subtle, ageless defiance against the onslaught of progress. I walk to honour a greater fear than the fear of connections lost. And that, my friends, is the fear of missing out on the joy of the journey because I’m too attached to the outcome.

This  is far more meaningful to me than the blue ribbons of influence or the Cracker Jack prize of social media wins. It’s not that I don’t value the connections I’ve made online. It’s not that I don’t believe in testing and reshaping our limits in the name of a life coloured in with the light of passion, intention and meaning. And it’s certainly not that I don’t value the continued evolution of technology and the walls and ceilings that have crumbled in its wake.

It’s that I value the people and the experiences far more than the results, surface-level metrics, best practices or tools that often capture and bottle our affections. It takes a greater courage to stand still and strong while the world is ever running, striving, worshiping at the altar of technology trends that will inevitably fade as new trends find their way. It takes an even greater courage to shed armour of online personas and its neon warmth for the pure light of presence.

But I’m convinced that once we open up to what is, the process of discovering how you want to show up and shine in this world becomes far richer and rewarding.

Brett Henley is a writer and creative entrepreneur with a taste for truth telling. Connect on Twitter @bretthenley

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