We’re always online, all the time. Our phones are always on, and it’s not strange to receive a text from your boss at 8 pm on a Sunday night. You know the night where you’re supposed to be relaxing on the sofa in your ugly fluffy pjs with bunny slippers. Instead, you’re still behind your laptop finishing this one more thing so you won’t start your Monday already behind on your work. In the meantime, you feel more and more disconnected from your actual life.
I know, because I’m like that. There is not one day where my laptop is not turned on, where I’m not at least doing something. It’s not always directly for clients, but it’s still working to some extent or another. We’re always supposed to be available for every little thing. ‘The new working’ we call it. But at the same time, while looking at our phone, we miss things. We miss the boy sitting in the cafe staring at your over the edge of his phone. We’re seeing our kid’s first steps through the bright screen of our phone, instead of holding out our hands to catch them. We’re sitting in cafes not to be alone while ‘flex working’, but with our earbuds plugged in, we’re never available. Every form of human interaction is met with frustration and annoyance. Even the waitress who asks us if we like more coffee is brushed aside. Is this connection?
When I’m alone at home on a Saturday night, and I’m texting three different friends, is that connection? I am still alone on the sofa. For introverts being alone is the things that gives them energy, but there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Digital connection is amazing to some extent as it makes distances smaller. It’s easier to maintain long-distance friendships, but we’re also always busy being connected to everyone else except the person that is right here in the room with us.
I am not pointing fingers. Far from it. I’m typing this from a corner of my favourite cafe, my back against the wall, face to the window, and my Bose headphones set to noise cancelling mode. I am doing everything I can not to connect with people. Yet, I came here to not be alone, since working from home means being alone all the time. Irony right?
I don’t have the answers, and I don’t even want to pretend that I have them. But I think we do need a different word for the way we’re currently cruising through life. Because our phones might be connected, but we are definitely not.