Monday, March 22, 2010

Solitude and Connectedness

I've been thinking about those two - perhaps polar - concepts recently. Think about undertaking an ocean passage in a small boat. If you're like me, without all the technological gee-gaws, that means a period of enforced disconnection. Except for your fellow crew you are largely cut off from the world.
Contrast that with daily life. Increasingly we are connected everywhere and always. Walking down the street, riding on the tram, we are always able to send and receive email, tweet, or browse the web. We can get the news, indeed we can report the news. Take a snap with the phone, email it to a news gathering organisation or just tweet it. If we wish we are always connected.
I first saw this sort of ubiquity of communication back in 2002. I had been doing business with a guy in the States and he would reply to my emails immediately, whenever I sent them. It seemed strange. When I visited him in the States I found him welded to his Blackberry. He said he responded to email on it whenever it arrived. I was appalled, how can you live like that?
I don't think that I've ever reached that level of obsession, but I do think I'm partly addicted. I feel disconnected if I'm out of contact. I want to "connect" and contact, I want to know, to browse, to read. All good you say. I suspect not. I suspect that it has got "bad" when you don't go to sea, for instance, because you can't bear to be disconnected.
When I finish an ocean passage, however sedate or gruelling it might have been, I always feel refreshed and relaxed. I'm often dog tired with weird sleep patterns, but I'm mentally refreshed. I think that the fact that I've had to disconnect, the fact that I may have had to challenge myself physically and mentally, the fact that I've lived and worked with others in a confined space means that my brain has some peace.
So why does this matter? The bottom line is that the sense of "connectedness" that I get from modern technology is probably false. I think that it leads to disconnectedness at a real level. I don't connect, at a real level, with myself and with those around me. Technology actually gets in the way. My mind buzzes, I can communicate at some level with others all over the world, but ultimately it's not real.
What do you think?

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