Why Temporary Disconnection Makes for Better Social Connectivity
By Michael Spotts:.
Storytelling is bound up in my being. There is little that satisfies me like sitting down with someone and trading tales. As soon as I could speak and write, I was letting people in on my adventures and ideas. The advent of Internet enabled me, however, to play the part of raconteur to unforeseen heights. The Web empowered me to broadcast my ongoing story at all hours, to potentially immeasurable audiences—within moments. Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I was on all of them, telling my story.
In 2010, I took a hiatus from work and spent sixty days riding a bicycle from the Canadian to San Francisco. Being an extreme extrovert (I had never spent three consecutive days apart from friends or family—the thought of doing so was paralyzing) this trip afforded a chance to test my personal limits. Was I actually capable of getting along with... myself? Alone on a bike in the boonies, I would be cut off for days or weeks at a time. One leg of the trip involved almost a fortnight backpacking the wilderness coast of Washington. No cellular signal, no texting missives to the masses abroad. The only waves came from the ocean, tossing up encrypted messages of sea rocks arranging and rearranging on the shores. Black and gray, ones and zeros in everlasting flux. Somehow isolation gave more profound feeling to my thoughts. I wanted to speak with someone, give my impressions of this locale and what meant to me.
Disconnected as I was, the constant stream of images and ideas began to pile up beyond all possibility of sharing. Usually I would have passed my experiences along to the Web almost as suddenly as I received them; now I had to store them in my mind and I couldn't remember it all. Only the most durable impressions persisted. Time forced me to ponder my own stories, telling and retelling them to myself. In this process they began to take new forms with deeper significance. The most meaningful portions suddenly appeared in relief, especially as I related them to other memories from my past and to stories I had heard from others. This period of narrative gestation imbued my experiences with greater meaning. Passing more thoroughly through the filter of my humanity, the tales became humanized, relatable. In the womb of solitude experiences have an opportunity to become distinctly our own, instead of being birthed prematurely and abandoned on virtual doorsteps overnight.
I have since made a practice of spending time alone, submitting my experiences to the workshop of time for tuneup. Oddly enough, I have come to believe temporary disconnection from others, especially from social media outlets, makes for better social connectivity. As we ruminate over the events of our lives, we come to know ourselves better, and in doing so we become familiar with our common humanity. The most personable person is the one who best understands the many peculiarities of personalities.