Text Claudia Brose | Photo © Claudia Brose
We think we are so well connected because we constantly connect via social media channels online with our so-called-friends. Some of them are real friends, living near or faraway. Some are just online connections, people we barely know or are only exchanging with online. I appreciate social media for helping me staying in touch and updated with friends across the world. This is a great advantage compared to decades earlier where staying in touch was a major effort and a costly one on top of it. Though social media is connecting us, we are at the same time very disconnected. Social media allows us to avoid an actual conversation with people in our lives and makes it easy to only interact through photos and written words sent through cyberspace.
Recent stories about connecting and disconnecting
I just came back from San Francisco. The very purpose of that visit was connecting with friends, as I have lived in the City at the Bay for quite some years and I love connecting with my friends, in real, face to face, over coffee or dinner. I am grateful for having them in my life, it makes my life richer, warmer and more interesting. Thus, I put some effort into seeing them. How do you connect with your friends? Do you take care of your friendships or do you postpone it for later in life, when you have more time on your hands (and the friends still happen to be your friends)?
In a conversation with a young man in his early twenties about his career ideas he says that he wouldn’t mind to first spend a little time in his father’s business because that gives him the opportunity to be around, exchange and connect with his father which he enjoys a lot. Maybe the father was too busy working while the kid grew up and now the son has the desire to connect with his father, a person that is important in his life.
In another conversation a young entrepreneur in his thirties explains to me that for his work as an art gallery owner it is important to connect, on a personal level, with art buyers, artists and the players in the art market. Speaking to people and building relationships that not only exist digitally but offer actual face to face exchanges make all the difference for his business.
Let’s look at the bright side of being disconnected
Being disconnected makes life faster and more efficient. No wasting time on talking, instead you can keep punching and working away on whatever device or task you are busy with. How efficient! Remember the times you would hear on the street “TAXI!!!”? Followed by an exchange in the taxi about where you need to go. Perhaps even a short conversation with the taxi driver about the city, the latest soccer results, or the weather would be part of the experience. Those days are over. Now you see people with stretched necks scanning the street for their Uber pick up (or whichever service), silently slipping into one of the thousand black cars congesting the streets. The only words spoken might be just confirming the driver’s and passenger’s names – James? Kate? Ok. – off we go, no more exchange needed. The destination is already transmitted via App. How convenient! You can immediately work and read away on your smartphone, disconnected from the driver, the traffic and the world you get chauffeured through.
Sitting in a café in San Francisco I observe how a young man gets out of the back of a car, walks into the café, grabs an already prepared coffee in a To Go cup with his name on it (obviously already paid for), gets back in the car and is driven off. No Hello!, no How Are You?, no Thank You. Are we so disconnected that we are unable to have normal, social interactions in social places like cafes?
In our neighborhood café, back in Europe, we learn that one of the servers we really appreciate is laid off because she was spending too much time with the customers, taking care, paying attention, connecting. That cost too much time and is not considered as quick and efficient work. So, she got laid off. Being disconnected from your customers is obviously preferred and gets rewarded.
Why connecting anyways?
Connecting with people means paying attention to them, being interested, experiencing new ideas and input they share with you. Connecting means being aware of what is going on around you and not constantly being disconnected by connecting with the digital world feeding you news, social media bites and email updates. Connecting means paying attention to yourself, connecting with your own thoughts (not the ones you constantly get fed), feelings and wellbeing.
Time to reflect, time to connect
The holidays are upon us. Many people take that time at the end of the year to reflect on the outcomes of the past year and their plans and goals that lie ahead. Perhaps “connecting” could be a topic to connect with? Connecting in the sense of consciously interacting with people on a personal, not digital, level or connecting with what is happening around you.
Here are some questions to think about: Does connecting benefit your wellbeing or do you feel it wastes your time? Does connecting even matter to you? Do you care if you connect to your friends, family, customers, colleagues or people in daily life? Do you notice if you feel differently when you try to connect to others?
Even if it sounds cheesy, the holidays are a good time to connect with family and friends. Work, business and life around us come to a halt (well, at least a little bit) and the days around New Year’s Eve offer some time we can use to consciously connect with people we care about. And guess what? It will make you feel better and it is an investment in your future.
How about putting in your digital calendar for 2019 the goal to more connect (“analog”) with friends and family, yourself and the world around you? But, be careful. You might suffer from some positive outcome…