Reconnecting with Disconnection

While skimming through the comments section of @NickBilton‘s NYT’s post One Step Back from the Digital World, I came across a reference to Hamlet’s Blackberry. Since I just discovered it, I haven’t read it: but it definitely looks interesting.

Anyhoo, Nick’s post and the Amazon summary of Hamlet’s Blackberry touch on something I’ve thought and written about before: the health effects of social media and other technologies.

There’s something about the designs of these tools which create paradoxes:

  • Curation services that help with information-overload lead to curation-overload
  • Paper-saving technologies create more data for printers to print
  • Technologies which liberate us from menial tasks ensnare and surround us
  • Socially-connecting technologies create opportunities for people to disconnect from each other

Ask yourself: If you had to give up your daily gadgets and interfaces, what would you do? Could you do your job? Could you communicate with your friends? If so, how?

Let’s refine the question: What would be the bare minimum level of technology you would need to accomplish your personal and professional activities of daily living (ADLs)?

I’m no Ludite. I’m connected to the Matrix. And I’m not just a consumer: I’m an active producer and interactor. I am, in a sense, a sort of Creative Technologist (Hat-tip to my friend Jess Seilheimer – @JaeSelle – who, by the way, is someone I think represents the kind of talent needed in 21st Century healthcare & life science marketing; so follow her).

And yet…I do wonder if there are better design sensibilities we need when developing these technologies. Right now, their evolution is rather ad-hoc. Actually, totally ad-hoc.

Human evolution is way slower than technological evolution. We’re adaptive – incredibly so. Still, there’s a point of tension where the elongating human-technology differential snaps.

Perhaps rather than focusing on technological solutions to technological problems, maybe we need to focus on the non-technological parts of ourselves.

The most obvious way to do that: connect with each other. Deeply. Meaningfully. Personally.

We absolutely need media in order to connect, even if it’s just air to speak with each other.

But if the medium is the message, then what’s the message we’re sending each other if we’re connected mostly via Twitter and Facebook, SMS or other social media?

Just as we need solitude from others, we need our social circles to have freedom from media-saturation.

We – and the upcoming generation – will need to work out how to return technology from an ensnaring being into a liberating being. That can only be done by our thinking and willing.

Reconnecting with Disconnection may be the paradoxical solution to the paradoxical problems created by technologies.

How are you handling the digital world and maintaining your important relationships?


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