During a recent web search, I came across the image below and something about it really caught my eye. Maybe it was because of all of the colors (I love colors!) or the way the data cables so clearly represented a woman but I think what really struck me was how the model was simultaneously so expressive yet seemingly weighted down.
The artwork and it’s name, “Connected,” prompted me to reflect on how tied down we become at times simply by being connected. With my last bit of vacation coming next week before the start of a new school year, the idea of cutting ties with technology for a little bit and being a little less “connected” sounds nice.
Don’t get me wrong, I love working with technology and typically spend most of the day on my computer connected with other educators, searching for global projects, learning from my Twitter PLN, and updating websites. Yet, sometimes it seems we’re so connected that we don’t converse with the people we’re with and we begin to alter our expectations of ourselves and others in interpersonal interactions. I know at times when I’m in the middle of conversing with someone I have found myself drawn towards my computer screen and the pop-ups telling me I have a new email. And when my phone beeps with a new text message, it can be surprisingly hard to ignore it, even thought I may be completely engaged out and about with friends or family.
I’m curious if our pressure to be connected is due to the concern about what we’ll lose/miss if we’re not online (e.g., emails, social media updates) or due to a literal need to be connected to do work, or because of a simple desire or idea that being digitally connected is an important and valued way of building and strengthening professional and personal relationships. Perhaps the pressure to connect is a result of all three factors and this is why, combined, they are challenging to overcome or put aside.
Still, I think it can helpful and refreshing to digitally disconnect at times during the year so that we can focus more on other connections and feel less tied to cords, outlets, and electronic devices. I’m excited next week to be traveling and to hopefully connect with some other environments and people, such as the sand under my toes at the beach, the fresh air of a summer walk, and the family I’ll see while on vacation. While I’m sure I’ll have to check email occasionally and won’t be able to resist skimming my Hootsuite streams, it will be nice to feel like I can or even should walk away from those sites and enjoy other types of connections.
I’m also excited to use the time when I’m less digitally connected to reflect more on being connected and on the technologies I use so frequently. By stepping away from them, I imagine they’ll be easier to examine. As my new summer book (Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer) suggests, by focusing less on on the specific digital connections I have, I can give my brain time and space to make broader connections. I can allow myself to be more creative and think about new ways to use my connections in the coming school year and creative ideas about how technology does and can intersect with our daily lives.
What do other people think? Are we ever too digitally connected? Do you take time to disconnect simply so you can imagine new ways of connecting?