Going Deep

How much are we as a culture ‘skimming the top’ of information, relationships, friendships and decisions in general?

People are talking and writing about the results of a study from the International Center for the Media and Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland.  In their study”24 Hours: Unplugged,” 200 students were asked to go without using any media (MP3, newspaper, computer, phone television etc.) for twenty four hours. The results were that they suffered the same withdrawal symptoms  of more severe additions such as drug use.   What does this mean?  Our youth like to stay connected with each other- is this something that we need to worry about?  The study also found that a majority of these students were not using this media to stay informed of local or world news, but to stay connected to family or friends.  What do we do with this information?

One person can have: a Facebook account, blog, Tweet, email , gaming life, Ping-not to mention text messaging on the phone.  This virtual and social media life is only one part of a person’s life- there is the real life:  interacting with friends, family, appointments, organizations and work.  How do we fulfill all of these demands unless we simply skim the surface of many of these obligations? The answer is we can’t .

I’m certain that we all can identify at least once or twice in a regular day where we are with someone who checks their email, gets a call or text message while we are talking to them- maybe we are one of these people ourselves.  Possibly you have experienced or committed the ultimate faux pas – answering a cell phone or texting on a date.  What does this mean?  Our attention is divided- we are not completely with the people in our physical space.  We are not going deep- we are not in the moment – our attention is distracted.

I had a friend that recently cancelled his blog.  When I asked him the reason for this, he answered it was just too much of a commitment- he just didn’t have the time.  At first I was disappointed – I enjoyed reading his blog.  I have on my wall the definition of wisdom: the ability to realize what is of value in life.  He realized that he didn’t have enough time to go deep, and that it would cost him time that he would rather put into other projects, and relationships- a wise choice I realize now.

It is a wonderful ability to stay connected to friends and family through social media.  On a hard day at work or home a person can receive some words of support from a friend that can completely change the mood.  We can find friends from our past and connect with friends and family around the world. What this study highlights is the growing nature of our culture to skim the surface of social connection- to be socially overextended.

Can we challenge ourselves to use one media at a time- to focus on one thing at a time? Talking with someone, and letting the text wait. Listening to someone and putting down the laptop lid.  Be as wise as my friend, and say ‘no’ to another social media that will take attention and time. Or would ‘going deep’ or a heightened sense of focus cause anxiety?  We can try and see.

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3 Responses to Going Deep

  1. poeticmuse73 says:

    I like your analogy to skimming the surface: of reality, of connection, of relationships with others. Instant messaging certain promotes instant connection and brief responses a mile wide and an inch deep – splashing in puddles with your rain boots on is fun and safe, while swimming in the ocean is terrifying. With texts and tweets constantly jolting our attention, are we always thinking, “What if it is really important? What if someone needs me?” or “What if this is the tidbit that will change my day, make me smile, or thunderbolt my life?” This is rarely the case. Like advertising, Social media in the form of a buzz or a text creates a sense of immediate need. (I note also, that the ICMPA study was done on a students who were studying topics around this field, a captive audience indeed).
    I am saddened that we are constantly looking to something else for excitement, distraction, or salvation, instead of focussing on what is right in front of us. While I muse upon how we respond to (or run from) commitment and to depth, I say bring on the ocean of reality – anxiety and focus are hard – yet bring depth, and growth.

  2. Bob King says:

    I am 74. During my childhood, the only distracting “connection” was a black telephone fastened to the wall. You held the earpiece to your ear, and talked to the round thing on the phone. There was no dial, but there was a live operator, and we were on a “party-line” for the first few years. Calls were infrequent. I vividly remember the first time I used that phone to call a girl to ask her for a date.
    I was 46 when I got my first computer. I am keenly aware that my life changed dramatically at that point. For the better? I doubt it. I have deep longings for the simplicity of earlier times, and the deep meaningfull relationships that came with it.
    Like your friend, I’m tempted to unplug a few nagging “services” we consider “necessary.” The day will come when I will unplug from everything. Will the world notice? No. Will I notice? You bet! Free at last, and Home!
    I’ve had it both ways. Today’s fads are huge distractions. I feel very sorry for younger folks who have never known, and never will, a better way to live. We may be “well connected” but those connections are tenuous, fragile, shallow and mostly meaningless. We’re paying a heavy price.

  3. The message I’m getting from this is that technology is burying us, and a lot of us don’t even realize it. As someone who is at the peak of this time, I must disagree.
    It’s true that there is a layer of technology over everything, entirely new ways to connect and interact with everybody, but the sincerity and the feelings and the essence of truth is still there.
    The previous commenter mentioned the first time he used a phone to call a date. I could imagine how giddy with excitement and how nervous and anxious he must have been to make that call, because I’ve been there.

    Sure the method’s changed, but the feelings are still there.
    Maybe you have to look a little deeper, but if it’s important (and it is) you’ll find it.

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