Virtual Insanity: The Consequences of Connectivity

 
Woman with smartphone in car
 

Our capacity to absorb what is going on around us seems to be infinite – and compared to what was happening in the teen years of our parents’ lives, there appears to be more information out there, both wanted and uninvited.

The boundaries between our offline and online lives are gradually disappearing, as we all become seamlessly connected to each other wherever we are by a device that we all carry in our pockets.

The social media 'personas' we carefully create and curate for ourselves feed into to our offline life, so that we are always hovering in the mid-world of on and offline, creating a personally constructed world which we aim to control with a swipe or glance.

However, this is not the truth, as plenty of evidence has shown that in an increasingly connected world we are gently yet persistently nudged and guided to where the artificial learning and subsequent algorithms have decided to take us.

As we become part of a data-driven society, and in doing so give up part of ourselves, we have entered into a digital pact – perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not. Julia Hobsbawm, in her book Fully Connected, writes about our inability to absorb the tidal wave of information that flows over us every day, and to simultaneously maintain a healthy balance in our personal and professional lives. This ‘Age of Overload’, or ‘Virtual Insanity’, is highly complex, often dissatisfying, and for the most part unproductive. At its worst, it can lead to a plethora of health issues, both mental and physical.

Stepping back from it all

I believe that we urgently need to find a way of stepping back from this constant connectivity, and I have found that meditation is the perfect antidote.

Twice a day, I make a conscious – often pre-planned – effort to meditate for twenty minutes without interruption. This gives me time to purposely disconnect from everything around me, and step into a safe space where I let my body rest very deeply and my mind settle. In these moments, thoughts naturally arise, triggered by the release of stresses both recent and long-past. There is no agenda: I'm not trying to meditate, or encourage or suppress thoughts. I'm letting nature do what it wants to do: naturally, effortlessly, simply, and easily. Without influence from the outside world.

When I end my meditation, I feel in a space to choose how to re-connect with the world on my own terms. Over the many years I have meditated, I have found that the beckoning of electronic devices to my fingers or thumbs up can be kept at bay. That digital world can then be entered into and left without feeling that addictive pull, as my powers of discrimination and intuition are being nurtured twice daily by meditation.


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Anthony Thompson