Connected yet disconnected: A true story for us all

Connected yet disconnected: A true story for us all

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Sounds familiar? If you’re a blogger, you have some version of the above statements listed somewhere on your website. If you’re a reader, you’ve seen it on pretty much every personal or business blog that you’ve ever visited.

Why shouldn’t you? We do live, after all, in a tech-enabled world. We are all connected. All the time. It’s very rarely that you find you cannot reach someone at the push of a button or the click of a mouse.

And yet, it was three days before I discovered that my next-door neighbour had suffered a stroke. 

It was thirteen days before I heard that a close friend who had been texting on Whatsapp till 7 pm one evening had collapsed due to a fatal attack at 3 am the next morning.

In the first scenario, the lady had been rushed to the hospital on time and anything untoward had been prevented. In the second, nothing could be done, despite ambulances reaching the spot within 10 minutes.

Both these things had been playing on my mind for the past week or so. It was probably no coincidence that last Thursday was also World Suicide Prevention Day. Although in both the situations above, there was no suicide or foul play, it did make me wonder about something far more primal.

Would I ever know if someone really needed my help? Are we no longer just a phone call away? Are we so ‘busy’ that we have no time to pick up the telephone and punch in a number to ask someone how they are doing today?

What about vice versa? How would anyone know that I needed help in a dire situation? I stay alone for most part of the day. I work from home. I only step out once or twice to either pick up groceries or attend a meeting.

Picture credit: Pixabay/ No Attribution license
A conversation with my husband a couple of days ago made me think deeply about this. I was voicing how we seem to be the last generation that has grown up without technology. For us, technology came when we were well into our late twenties. It’s been a flood, to be very honest, ever since smartphones and smart devices hit the market. It’s a different fact that they don’t seem to have made us much ‘smarter’, but that’s a blog post for another day.

To that, he replied, ‘If you think about it, our parents’ generation is probably the luckiest. They had the best of the non-tech world where they made valuable use of their time. Today, they use tech the way it should be used- as a means to keep in touch or stay updated on information from family and close friends.’

My child was born into the world of touch screens. On a personal level, as parents, we don’t give her much screen time. Most of her day is spent either outdoors or between the pages of a book. While I don’t for one moment judge anyone for their parenting choices, I do find that more kids today are wary of social interaction, irrespective of their personalities.

That saddens me. 

I get into an elevator and I see teens with their heads bent over smartphones, texting or checking social media updates. Walk into any coffee shop and the scene is not vastly different among the office-going crowd either. Even a dinner with friends and colleagues sees people whipping out their devices to combat boredom after the first hour of pleasantries is exchanged.

Picture credit: Pixabay/ No Attribution license
As a friend of mine affirmed, I cannot deny the extremely useful and positive nature of social media today. It has put me in touch with wonderful, incredible souls. These people I have had the pleasure to know offline and I bless technology for bringing us together. My story on Depression was easier to tell to a group of people online and the overwhelming support I received as a result cannot be put into words.

But, there is such a thing as being too connected and the fallout is dual in this case. For one thing, not everything we see/read online is ever the complete picture. A person posting pretty pictures and status updates or a YouTube song list may actually be looking for something more than a ‘like’ or a retweet. She may be asking for help and we’d never know it. In this case, if you even have a niggling suspicion of anything amiss, pick up the phone and talk to them. Listen to the sound of their voice and the inflection that says ‘I’m fine’ when they really aren’t.

Secondly, and this is something I experienced recently, reaching out via technology even among close friends, can be misconstrued. Your intentions can be doubted, your sincerity is questioned and you end up wishing you had never made the effort to do so in the first place. You are visible on social media, right? So the assumption is that you are available. How can you explain that you’re merely using it as a distraction- perhaps from work concerns, domestic trouble or negative thoughts that crowd your mind?

Don’t get me wrong. I do love technology. It helps me blog, work from home, keep in touch with friends and family way better than I could, say, even 5 years ago.

Somewhere,though, in our mad rush to be at the forefront of technology and everything it promises us, we seem to have snapped our ties with some things that really matter. We seem to have disconnected with the truly personal way of keeping in touch and allowed technology to do the job for us. 

Perhaps it’s time to look again at the way we use technology. 
For our sake and for the sake of our children, don’t you agree?

~~~o~~~

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0 thoughts on “Connected yet disconnected: A true story for us all

  1. What is important is that were you really close to both the people in terms of being in touch everyday? Why I say that is because something similar happened to a close friend of mine. He is close but we speak once in months. So when he vanished and did not respond to messages, it took me weeks to get worried. He is terribly sick. I felt terrible but in a way I understood. I wasn't in touch every day. The only people I am in touch with on a daily basis are people I can count on my fingers. I think technology hasn't changed that. Just the circle of acquaintances and friends have become larger which would not be possible if we did not have social media channels.

    Your point about a person posting happy status updates or happy posts actually as a cry for attention or a vent from something stressful is very valid and true. But then a regular Joe is incapable of looking beyond the words especially when so many of us have had only virtual contact with the person. Again, I don't think we should feel guilty about it or pile it on our conscience.

  2. Very true Shailaja, we definitely have to find that balance. Hopefully, as we have gone through the grinder and are wiser now, we can pass on some of that introspection to our kids. Don't know if they'll take it, but at least they would have heard it and it will have some impact :).
    Similar to what Rachna says, I do have levels of relationships as well. Not everyone that I interact with on social media is a “phone” level friend, and with those I don't worry about losing touch or not hearing about mishaps or illnesses as I know we'll find a way.

  3. That is important, Rachna. I completely agree.Yes a lot of it is guilt, unfortunately and a niggling concern that someone may not hear/be around if I needed something in a hurry. Even as I was writing this post I realised that it doesn't matter. We come alone,live and die alone. But the connections we made when we were growing up somehow seemed so much easier and without any stress/ expectation. I mean , yes, we did have fallouts with friends, we felt bad and more, but we made up far quicker. Don't you think?

    Sigh, about social media. I think you've said it all. Not worth the guilty conscience.

  4. This is so true Shailaja! Life has really changed, thanks to technology. It may have brought the world closer, but it has increased the chasm.between us and 'our' people and that is what makes me.really sad. I really wish we could go back to picking up the phone and reaching out to people than whatever we do today in the name of connecting. That way, there would.be a lot less lonely hearts and depressed souls.

  5. I really think it is easier to text my children to tell them Dinner is served instead of yelling from the kitchen. But, I agree with you that times have changed and so has the social interactions. In our days, we would be stuck to the land phone talking to friends for hours. Now, its texting for hours. Our parents may have also lamented at our behaviour like we are now doing at our kids. Since we have worked out ourselves, I believe the children would too. Lets hope for the best.

  6. I personally feel that technology is exhausting. So I stay away from it. But at times I tempted to give in and frequently log in to check updates. As for my friends we all agree that technology can never replace the sitting together and talking thing.

  7. You very well know where I stand on all this. In fact, all of us from the same generation have the same thoughts. So, I'm not really worried as such. The key, of course is to balance all of this online time with offline activities. Yes, there is definitely a disconnect at times – as long as we do what we think is necessary to maintain a balance, I think it'll be alright. Both for our generation and future ones.

  8. Hmm..let me see. I think I can write an essay on this one, but I will try to keep it concise. 😛

    I have a love-hate relationship with technology.

    I hate it for the same reasons that you mentioned. It has done a lot more harm, then it has done good for interpersonal relationships. Yes, we are far more connected with the 'world at large', but the deep, meaningful relationships are fewer.

    But I do feel that we have a choice to stay connected with the people who matter. We can't really blame it all on social media. I make an effort to call and talk on phone with the people who are important to me. This is a big deal for me, coz as an introvert, I was overjoyed to just communicate over chats and texts when the whole thing started. It made me feel more social than I was. It was a good feeling, till one day I realized that I hadn't really spoken with my closest friend for over 2 years. Chats – yes, Texts – yes, WhatsApp – yes, Human Voice and Face to Face interaction – No. During this India trip, I met her. That changed my world view. There is no replacing the long chats over coffee or the comfort of human voice.

    Now, coming to the part I love about this online world – people. I have come across the most amazingly wonderful people through the internet, and I am better for it. I wouldn't have “met” YOU without this virtual interface, and I can't begin to thank my lucky stars for being connected with you. So, for these pros, I will take the cons. 🙂

    Essay complete. 😛

  9. Thanks shailaja, you made me reflect too, agree that technology has widened the gap on one side wherein we have become so lost and busy in the virtual world, that we do not know what is happening next door. sometimes even on line as you rightly said beyond the smiling faces there are cries for help which is also true….what I personally feel is to be connected or disconnected is the choice we have and I chose to be connected with family and those who matter to me and ensure that I am there…. some times it is also better to be disconnected to keep the toxic to minimal even if they are extended family, relationships or friends. Those who are unable to find help and suffer within is also a kind of choice they have made… my intention is not to blame them (even though I agree that we need to be sensitive and caring) sometimes it is difficult to help when the person is not open to receive help. Many times in my one to one interaction in a training session I find this question common as what to do when the person who is harming self but does not want to take help…. I still feel shocked whenever I think of an incident wherein the aunt forcefully brought her newly married niece to our centre for counselling and she refused to open up stating that everything is fine and she does not require help .( as she had all the symptoms of depression, but they were unable to identify and got her treated with a general physician) and when the symptoms continued the family felt that the girl must be counselled; unfortunately she was not open for counselling and has already made a decision to kill her self. she sat down comfortably for half an hour not opening up and said that all is ok with her life. The very next day, she was found dead in her aunt's house, husband was just beside, she took pesticides in the middle of the night and was declared dead by morning. For many days I was feeling bad and guilty that I could not be of help to her, especially after her reaching our centre….even now it hurts to think about this incident. I feel we need to strike a balance managing our on line and off line relationships.

    Also I realised that one of clues to identify suicidal ideation is that once they make up their minds they are willing to part with their treasured possessions, give away their favourite gifts etc and may even say their prays, visit the temple and meet all the family members.(as internally they have decided to end their lives). the need of the hour awareness and sensitization to those around to watch out the various clues that are given by the victim… thanks for sharing…

  10. When we are unaware of what is happening next door reflects our inability, insensitivity and plain aloafness to neighbours/people. Its is not easy interacting/talking to humans. Social skills are put to test. We live in a busy world where every second counts. But all these evils we have created and technology is not to be blamed to a certain extent. We are happy 'interacting ' on social networking sites as it doesn't involve much of emotions. An emoticon or a thumbs sign are enough to convey. Let take the help of technology to further our relations but keeping contacts with family friends neighbours and relatives.

  11. I have started doing it more consciously now, Shilpa. Picking up the phone to speak to friends in the last week along has increased my phone bill as well as my happiness quotient 🙂 Yes I am still on social media but balancing it out these days to being less available online and more so offline.

  12. And I'm so glad I picked up the phone and called you yesterday. It felt so awesome 🙂

    Technology is a bane as much as it is a boon. Apart from writing, I try not to depend much on it. Meeting people in person is what I prefer any day and I'm glad inspite of the rush of technology I have managed to meet up with people and discuss my happiness and sorrows.

  13. I honestly feel it was better when we were growing up , Lata. Yes, we would be stuck on the phone but it was not harmful to our brains. That's what gadgets do to our kids. We don't even realise how insidious it is, but it's the harmful truth 🙁

  14. I agree completely with everything you said above 🙂 It is precisely the reason I detox from Facebook each month because for me, that is a big time drain, personally. Whatsapp is not a problem because it is mostly mindless forwards that I cannot stand. I only use that to exchange photos with close friends and family. I have picked up the phone and spoken to so many people this past month alone that it has been such a breath of fresh air! Yes, though, without the internet, I may never have met you and what a travesty that would have been 🙂

  15. Thank you so much for sharing that Angela. It must have been hard to watch that situation and feel so helpless, right? Yes we need to watch for the clues and figure it out, I guess. How well we can do so is anyone's guess 🙁

  16. I wouldn't say it is aloofness or insensitivity. I would say it is lack of communication, which is a very different thing. We text and interact online because it is faster and probably simpler for most of us. What I am trying to say is that we should not let that replace our daily face to face interactions.

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