We have an inherent need to feel connected. It’s why cell phone usage has gone off the charts over the last few years; it’s why Facebook has blown up beyond Mark Zuckerberg’s wildest dreams. As humans we need to feel relevant, we need attention, we need affirmation. And then when we get it, we crave more.
It’s true: when we are connected to one another, we feel a sense of satisfaction and validation. But this desire for connectivity is also a Catch-22. The need to feel constantly accessible and simultaneously connected to others has somewhat backfired…couples go out to dinner and keep their phones on the table next to their plates like another piece of flatware. Moms walk their babies in strollers through the park, gabbing away on the phone instead of enjoying being right there, in that moment. Through this connectivity epidemic, we’re missing the point. The irony in always being “reachable” through our mobile devices is that it creates an unhealthy codependence- our eyes are glued on our phones waiting for the validation that comes from that next text or Facebook comment, and we miss what’s right in front of us….the beauty in connecting organically to other people we’re sharing the experience of life with – people we can connect to in person through our shared passions, fears, pain, joy, circumstances.
We have another need that maybe isn’t as obvious – the need to be fully present. Being present leads to increased joy in everything we experience. It creates a heightened sense of awareness and fulfillment. Our experiences get better by leaps and bounds when we actually pay attention to our surroundings: the sights, the smells, the sounds, the people we’re with. The time passes more slowly as we relax into each experience, as we realize we’re enjoying being exactly there, right then.
I experienced something this weekend that jogged my awareness of the need people have to connect to one another. I went to Cincinnati to get my Mini worked on by a guy who was in town from Detroit for a short couple of days. While I was there, not only did I laugh more than I have in months, and feel myself noticeably relax in the company of some pretty amazing people, but I also met a bunch of fellow Mini drivers, who were as passionate about their cars as they were welcoming and friendly. And throughout the weekend at my “Mini retreat” I realized how connected these people were by a common passion- their love for their tiny, fast, tricked-out Minis. There was a sense of community and friendship…and I didn’t see anyone get out their cell phones…and I like to think it’s because they were so content just being present in that experience, sharing a common passion- strengthening a common bond.
Ask yourself what you’re passionate about… Seek out ways to connect with others through those passions; find common ground to share organically not digitally. Entertain the idea that the real beauty in life is discovered through shared experiences. And it’s only when we are fully present in those experiences that we are able to disconnect from the gadgets we rely on so much- and reconnect with the physical world around us.