The average office worker is interrupted every three minutes by phone calls and emails. With this kind of frequency, it helps to have an understanding of how modern technology impacts us. The near miraculous ability to connect electronically has made our world richer in countless ways. But. it's also not so easy to unplug! The repeated use of our tech toys stimulates the reward centers in the most primitive part of our brain, the medulla and the cerebellum. That causes our dopamine neurotransmitters to release chemicals that make us feel good. So, of course, the more we do it, the more we crave it, making it very hard to unplug.
Don't worry, that is as technical as I am going to get!! What I want to get to is living in balance. It is arguably easier to succumb to our modern world than it is to claim the restorative state of being alone and silent. And yet the benefits of solitude, and it's cousin, silence have been known throughout history and across cultures. However, because it is so stimulating to the brain it is easier to double down on technology and avoid being alone.
Study after study shows that when we are asked to go a day without social media we become anxious, and experience withdrawal and even a state of craving. These are symptoms of addiction and it relates to the brain's reaction of wanting the stimulus to release feel good chemicals, so we want more and in the process begin to disconnect from our internal compass.
Solitude gives us time to explore what we need, what we are actually feeling and how we respond to external events and relationships. It helps us to be mindful and present to ourselves, which directly affects our quality of life. The blessings we need and require are not to be found in other places, people or on social media. These gifts can only be given to you by your self. They are at home in the still point of your soul.
I tend to get cranky when I don't have time alone. This is the time I am my most authentic self, uncensored and feeling the most liberated. In my waking time alone, my mind is unfettered, and in essence, I reveal myself to myself. It is a lovely intimacy with the self. It not only affects me, it affects my relationships, my work, the way I greet life each day.
Curiously when I succumb to being on social media too much, I feel lonely; yet, I don't feel lonely when I am alone. That reality totally fascinates me as I realize the absence of loneliness is due to the presence of connections first to myself, then to others and to life; those connections are born in solitude and silence.
Even though it would appear social media connects us to each other, it is a superficial connection that spotlights our ego and leaves our soul in the shadows. Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor who studies technology and society, commented. “We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We expect more from technology and less from each other”.
I know we don't get too excited about doing things in moderation, but I love hanging out in this place. It is the receptacle for common ground, curiosity, active listening and understanding, discovery, creativity, and most importantly, connection to self and others. The lack of polarity in this place offers each of us the opportunity for incredible freedom and consciousness.
Moderation would also allow us to be technically literate, yet, balanced; a calmer presence who is not distracted; mindfulness, instead of mindlessness. Where do you hang out? Where would you like to hang out?