The irony of having to come online to write this post doesn't wear thin on me, however living in an age of increasing connectivity there seems to be very few opportunities to truly relish in moments of disconnection. Over the last couple of months I've been increasingly wanting to take more time offline for the simple reason that there is a beauty in disconnection that we don't appreciate until we've accepted that there are multiple benefits of disconnecting for our selves and our spiritual well-being.
Our culture of constant communication and being interconnected with others online has adversely made us more stressed in some cases as well as addicts to responding to every source of information that comes our way! Whilst technology and being able to connect with someone and exchange information in the matter of minutes is a huge benefit, our lack of disconnection time has perhaps caused us to neglect the development of relationships that truly matter to us like spending time offline with family, friends and colleagues - real meaningful time. I have to admit, the online world is a distraction from being truly present with those around us and connecting on a human level. For those of us who spend much of our communication with colleagues online anyway, it's even more important to find those opportunities for regular disconnection.
In a bid to have more disconnection time and to free my mind of virtual distractions (no matter how good they may be!), I decided that there'd be no harm in getting rid of my smartphone last year before Ramadan. It has been 6 months without a phone that gives me access to emails (or Facebook which is some people's biggest online addiction!) and I have to say I genuinely have relished in these opportunities of disconnection and really been able to deeply build on relationships than I would've been able to online.
Here are a few other lessons and skills I have learnt over the past few months through disconnection:
1. Personal reflection: One of the most significant benefits of having become disconnected in certain hours of the day has been of being able to personally reflect. This means I get to set my own agenda about what I read and get the chance to digest and reflect at the start and end of the day. In the age of information overload, there is a real sense of lack of focus and people simply have no time for personal reflection because we're constantly being fed information and tasks by others. Another immensely liberating feeling of disconnection time for personal reflection has been that it keeps my mind free from 'urgent matters' and I really feel that I'm thinking about the more important things in life than the online matters which can wait, if it's truly urgent they can call me.
2. Enhanced communication: Perhaps one of the lost arts of this generation is being able to strike up an interesting conversation and on a truly human and engaging level. Being disconnected has enhanced my communication ability with others and meant I have to rethink how to communicate a message which can be taken quite lightly or without any real understanding online. In particular being able to articulate ideas and thoughts to an audience and share those that are organic and original can come from those opportune moments of disconnection.
3. Presence of the mind: For those of us who live in busy city suburbs, the ability to focus is an even greater challenge as messages from the moment we step out of the door to the moment we leave work are being constantly drilled into our minds! This is made even worse when we check our Blackberry or iPhone every hour for yet more requests of our time, it's a wonder that we haven't gone crazy amidst it all! Yet leaving the emails out of sight and any such online connection when I'm away from the desk has definitely allowed me to be more present, this means I've been able to reflect on the day to day normal actions of others and think more clearly than be influenced by multiple channels of information.
4. Engaged conversations: One way of measuring our 'presence' is through the way we interact with others, online communication allows for great thoughts to be recorded don't get me wrong, however the added value of being able to engage with an individual through conversation is definitely a beautiful art we must strive to retain in this era of technology. I personally felt this at times where I've sat down with a family member and just asked each other about life, or decided I would meet up with a friend rather than call her just so we could engage in a more meaningful conversation where each of us could appreciate one another more at the end of it.
5. Improved worship: Ultimately our online time is a huge distraction for many, it gets you thinking about 10 different things all at once that we get lost in a whirlwind of information that we don't know what to do with! Sadly we do not feel the true presence of being with our Lord like the spiritual leaders of our past, however disconnection time is most beneficial for reconnecting with our spiritual self. Only through more disconnection time can we build our relationship with our Lord, show those we love that we care and be more content in freeing ourselves and our minds from the not so important things in life.
I've concluded, we must embrace the beauty of disconnection to revive our selves and seize opportunities to be in the beauty of disconnection whatever chance we get..
I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)