ON or OFF: Our Only Options?
I just had the privilege of speaking at a retreat in Cannon Beach, OR. Cannon Beach, as you may know, is gorgeous even when windy and rainy (and downright glorious when the sun comes out). Being that this retreat was held at a retreat center, I assumed there would be no wireless Internet. I think that’s because there is a good part of me that still lives in the mid-1980s (I miss you, Howard Jones).
But there was wireless Internet at the retreat center, and while I had brought my laptop in case I wanted to write or needed to print notes, etc., I decided to take the whole weekend offline anyway. It was refreshing. It was delightful. And it meant my inbox was overstuffed when I did finally check it last night.
But the experience got me thinking. Are “online” or “offline” our only options? As we move toward greater hyperconnectivity – toward being “always-on,” as researcher Sherry Turkle puts it – might there be at least a third option (and perhaps many more)?
In considering more options than simply “off” or “on,” it is important to take our “human card” into whatever digital space we develop and adopt. For example, online social networking – Facebook, etc. – is a space where we’re just learning to be human, to bring the fullness of our humanity into a new digital landscape.
In other words, we have to recognize our natural limitations as humans. This is not a popular message, especially for those of us born and raised in the West. We can be anything we want, after all. So, shouldn’t we try?
Limits make us human, and embracing our limits actually moves us toward being more fully human.
But limits are not the enemy. Limits not only help define who we are and what we are meant to do, they also leave space for others to be who they are and do what they were meant to do. Limits make us human, and embracing our limits actually moves us toward being more fully human.
But if we are finite, then we have to choose where and how we will direct our finite self. We’ve all got 24 hours in a day. We’ve all got certain gifts, opportunities, relationships, and experiences that make us who we are. Integrating these two factors – time and what we might called “talent” – is key to determining the way we enter into and move into a digital landscape.
It is appropriate to “disconnect” now and again, yes – to take a break from connectivity like I did this last weekend. At the same time, it is vitally important that we learn to integrate our humanity with our technology. No, I don’t mean integrated in a Matrix-y way where we all get plugs in the back of our heads. I mean that to be a happy, healthy human requires thoughtfully considering our online activities and making choices in light of our humanity. Integration is what we’re after here. Wholeness.
In order to move toward integration and wholeness – a third option, if you will – requires some hard work. It’s much easier to “surf,” to literally let the social currents and technology trends carry us around. But we were made to steer. Even a real surfer directs where her of his surfboard is on the wave (or so I’m told – I don’t actually like cold water and Great White sharks). We will continue more of the “hard work” to discover an option to “offline” or online” this week on this blog. Stay with us and feel free to share your thoughts as you do.