This feeling. Must connect. Must check in. Must see what’s happening. Can’t resist. Need to know. It bites, it stings, it drives you. Constant desire to seek what’s new. Notifications, conversations, plot lines, anything we can get our hands on. We’re addicts and most of us don’t even know it. Always seeking our next fix, we just want it now. Tell me. Give it to me. Can’t fight the urge.
We resist as strongly as we can, telling ourselves we’ll be better off. But resistance is futile and eventually we’ll give in and check. We must know. Something happened, somewhere, and we long for insight and updates.
Over the course of our growing relationship with our technologies, we’ve trained ourselves similarly to Pavlov’s dog with a slightly different net effect. Instead of salivating at the sound of a bell, we’re just always salivating. Toilet breaks, elevator moments, alone time, down time. We’ve trained ourselves to jump into digital connection at the slightest inkling of boredom.
Gap time, so they call it, is an essential human experience responsible for innovations, creative bursts and balanced mindsets. We need these moments of undistracted free thinking in order for our brains to function at a high level. Yet we’ve taken away all these moments of gap time and replaced them with digital screens full of emails, tweets, TV shows, blog posts and never-ending streams of content.
We’ve become Pavlovian in that every time we feel a moment of disconnect or discomfort, we wire ourselves into our devices without even thinking.
If we’re having a conversation with someone and get interrupted, the other person immediately jumps to their phone. Watch and see. Arriving at home after a long day of exercise, meetings and work, we feel compelled to stare at screens and escape from reality. What’s worse is that even if we don’t want to give in, it’s near impossible to fight the urge. If there’s “nothing to do,” why not just pop open the display and check email, even if it’s 8:30 p.m. and the work is done for the day? If we tell ourselves not to watch TV because we’ve had enough digital for the day, but there’s really not much to do and we’re exhausted from the day, the pull of the story lines are so compelling we just have to click play.
The world is full of distraction and it’s hard to stay focused on what matters. We’re so connected by day we barely know how to function when we get home and aren’t required to be wired into our computers. Evening time is often one giant block of gap time, and many of us fill it with mindless entertainment and digital distractions that pull us from our immediate surroundings. The hard part about this is that it seems unimaginable to prevent the black hole-like pull of digital devices. Resistance feels futile, and it’s only a matter of time until we’re completely connected from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep. Rinse and repeat, day in and day out.
There must be more.
Of course, there are the days where we stay away from tech and are out in the world living life without the digital, but these are feeling fewer and farther between. We still have a long way to go before we successfully merge the physical with the digital as we’re still in the infancy stage of connecting our world with our digital lives.
The groundwork is laid for the future of a symbiotic relationship with our tech, and it’s up to us to make sure we’re ahead of the technology, not the other way around. Instead of the pattern of “finish a task, check the internet; finish a task, check the internet,” we need to make sure we’re controlling our urges and keeping ourselves away from craving new information and constant entertainment.
We need to make sure the desire to seek out the new isn’t overwhelming the need to stay focused.
It takes dedication, attention and tenacity to make sure digital connection doesn’t overrun our lives. Many of us are pushing forward, but many will be left behind and fall into the trap of being forever logged in. Spaced out, with a Matrix-like world pulled over their eyes.
Here’s the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.