Always ‘on’…

If you are an American teenager, you are likely to be ‘connected’ around 7-10 hours per day (according to this article.) By this I mean plugged in/tuned in to the net in some way.

If you are honest- how about you? I might spend a lot of my working day in front of a PC- on an office day, this may be 6 hours. I then will read a few blogs/websites, answer e-mails, then do some bits and pieces of writing into the small hours. On some days, I am up there with the teenagers.

“TV will turn your brain to Jelly” my mother used to say. This was her excuse for restricting our TV watching to only two programmes a week- usually The World About Us and (more bizarrely) Starsky and Hutch. However I have since over compensated for this televisual deprivation, and my brain is not yet jellied. The question is whether our increased addiction to internet based communication might yet mix our brains into some kind of (ahem) blancmange.

I liked the balance of this;

The greatest advantages of wired living are easily enumerated. Plugged into the world’s hive-mind, we have speed, we have range. We can research and reference much of humanity’s gathered knowledge – and gossip and opinion – in minutes. We have godlike capabilities and are increasingly adept at using them.

Unplugged from media’s live wires, however, our originality and rigour can come into play in a different, older sense that’s found in our capacity to make decisions, to act on our own initiative, to think freely, without fear of pre-emption. Much as we hunger for connection, we need to keep some sense of ourselves separate from the constant capacity to broadcast. We need tenses other than the present.

If the issue is about trying to make sure that we have time for both- how do we achieve this, particularly given the strangely compulsive and addictive nature of the connected world?

For some people, the suffusion of the present is increasingly attended by strain and anxiety, and a sense of lost control. For all of its challenges, we live in an era of near-miraculous, unprecedented opportunities.

Above all, though, every effort on our part should begin with the knowledge that without the ability to say no as well as yes to technology – and to understand what exactly it is that we are agreeing to when we do say yes – we risk turning modernity’s miracles into snares.

I would add to this an old discussion on this blog about the nature of on line communication, which I compared to a kind of Autism. On line communication allows for the sharing of lots of informational data, but for the most part lacks the nuanced, multi-layered complexity that characterises human face to face exchanges.

People who have autistic spectrum difficulties can find techniques that might help manage some of the contradictions and complications life brings to them. They might also have real strengths that are revealed in a capacity to perform some non-social tasks extremely well. But within social groups, they will often struggle.

Which is another way of saying that online time is great, but it is limited. For most people it is not enough, and if we ignore the other parts of who we are then they might wither and die, to our collective detriment.

All the more reason then (plug alert!) to build in some periods of electronic silence into your life. And how better to do this than to come on one of our Wilderness Retreats? Allow the noisy silence of wild places to wash over you…