This one’s about connection.
No, I’m not gonna share hacks on how to most efficiently connect your devices to wifi (the importance of which obviously shouldn’t be underestimated in this day and age) but I do want to write about human connection and the side effects of the lack thereof.
For some reason, I’ve been feeling less connected to people over the last couple of weeks. I’m not saying that I haven’t connected to anyone at all lately, it just never seems to be enough, either in terms of total time spent connecting or in terms of consistency over time. I feel like none of my more or less recent social interactions have been enough to satisfy my need for a deeper connection, need being the key word here. I once read the following sentence somewhere (probably on Instagram):
People are only as needy as their unmet needs.
I couldn’t agree more. The less I feel my need for connection is being met, the needier I feel. And it doesn’t stop there: said neediness manifests itself in various ways, the least accommodating being my cell phone (AKA social media) addiction, closely followed by general antsiness and a constant feeling of restlessness, urging me to compulsively check my phone. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only “victim” of endless scrolling. Sure, sometimes using a phone is just that: texting a friend, making plans, replying to an email, looking up the lyrics of that awesome song you can’t get out of your head. I mean, smartphones are useful little assistants, am I right?
Just to be clear, I’m not trying to insinuate that every person who uses a phone is automatically unhappy.
However, despite the fact that almost everyone constantly carries a tiny computer around, it’s amazing how difficult it is to actually connect to people on a non-superficial level. Ironically, true connection evades us even though (or should this be because..?) we’re more technologically connected than ever.
The other night I was at home when I suddenly felt a surge of loneliness within me as I was trying to get some much-needed rest. I instinctively grabbed my phone to reach out to someone to ask them what they were up to. I opened Whatsapp and almost frantically scrolled through the chats, going through my list of friends and family members I could potentially reach out to, only to realise that I didn’t want to burden anyone with my need for attention for various reasons and consequently felt even lonelier than before. I then proceeded to browse my Instagram and Facebook feeds, looking for a satisfaction I obviously wasn’t going to find on any of those platforms. Despite this awareness that my phone’s not doing me any good when I’m feeling this way, I’m not always able to put it down. Scrolling serves the purpose of distracting me from the pain of loneliness and of not dealing with my feelings. It’s an attempt to numb the more difficult emotions that are inherent to the human existence.
When browsing doesn’t do the trick, posting something on social media is the next best thing. I’m not saying that every single post in the history of social media is a cry for attention though. I like to use social media to share experiences, articles and photos with friends and family, to share my blog posts and to promote and express my support for causes I care about.
However, I’ve also been guilty of the one thing one generally tends to condemn: posting as a means to draw attention to myself, to let people know that I’m still around, to chase after the tiny dopamine high (like I said, it’s an addiction) one usually experiences when somebody reacts to a story, likes a post or shares a comment. Needless to say that these reactions rarely lead to more meaningful conversations and therefore posting those little outcries for attention rarely makes me feel less lonely and definitely doesn’t bring about any kind of long-term satisfaction.
What does make me feel less lonely is putting my phone down and being in the moment with people I get along with. Sadly, this doesn’t happen as often as I’d like it to because of scheduling issues on all ends. Life is busy and people are busy and therefore schedule incompatibilities are hard to avoid. It sometimes takes weeks to make a get-together happen and until then, the only way to stay connected is through phones, which is where the smartphone addiction rears its head again.
So far, I haven’t found a solution to this vicious circle. I may be spending too much time by myself, either because my introverted self requires alone time on a regular basis (which occasionally keeps me away from situations that would allow me to connect with other people) or because the opportunity to spend time with friends doesn’t present itself for one reason or another. At the same time, it’s incredibly difficult to find people whose lifestyles, interests and personalities are compatible with my own, so I don’t believe there’s an easy solution to the connection issue apart from reminding myself to stop living inside my phone and to get out of the house and live in and experience the real world instead.