Genuine Connection

I suppose if there was only one overriding principle I have for writing this book “The Slow Manifesto”… it’s to once again encourage genuine connection between humans.

Genuine connection doesn’t solve all problems, it’s a tall challenge, and requires a MAJOR rethinking of some of our Western traditions, but I think it’s worth it.

And, I like tackling big problems. 🙂

So, I think slow technology is a good thing.  I like progress, so long as it’s focused, useful for the world, and has minimal side effects for society as a whole.

One side effect of digital technology, for example, is that I see it taking our genuine connections and reducing them down to bite sized “if I have time for it” interactions.

Some might challenge:

“But yeah, I have complete control of the technology I use, and can form genuine relationships when I choose.”

Could you do better if you honestly analyzed your use of technology and focused on deeper and more genuine connection?

In short, no trade off… no “control” of technology needed, you instead focus on deepening your personal, face to face relationships… and completely push the use of your smart phone, the Internet, your tablet etc… into the background?

Now how does that “form genuine relationships when I choose” sound?  A little different?

And, I’m not, nor would I ever suggest you never use digital technology.  In fact, all I’m suggesting is it never becomes your primary focus, that you’re genuine in your claim that you’re in control of it.

Because most people, aren’t.  I thought I was until my “awakening” of sorts back in March 2011.  I won’t bore you with the details of the awakening itself, but as for my “control” of the use of technology…

Not.  Even. Close.

I was online into the wee hours of the night, justifying any use of down time with hours plugging away online… and as Twitter really skyrocketed into popularity, as was Facebook, then Google Plus… let’s just say I was just controlling how many minutes I spent on each.

Not focusing on how much time I spent with the family, my wife, etc…  Granted, we didn’t have problems, and we were both using technology about the same way, but once we focused on genuine connection, our family life got even better.

Have you ever stopped to look at the birds?  Not glance at them just to “check it off a list” mind you, but truly stop and look at what kinds of birds fly around your area?

I found quite a few varieties.

Have you ever stopped to think about the gifts we’ve already been given?  Have you ever enjoyed them?  Not just once, or twice, but as a regular part of your life?

This isn’t some “checklist item” that you complete to say “I did it!”… no… this is a lifelong process of celebrating your being a human.

Now, what about connecting with other humans… genuine connection?

Genuine connection defined:  a connection with another human being where you can comfortably share the intimate details (not necessarily sexual) of your life, and not feel embarrassed.  This person reciprocates that same relationship.

Obviously, it’s an interesting challenge to have 1500 genuine connections of that nature, right?

Social networks seem to promote “connection” with other people, but I would qualify that as a superficial connection at first.  Bits and bytes that say you’re “connected.”

I think we’ve come to a point where the “genuine” part is being eroded away, not completely mind you, because we will always have close friends and family (if you’re close to your family).

I think “genuine” connection is a much harder place to get to these days, because of the time and energy (and priority) we’re placing on maintaining the more superficial connections.  Some might say this has always been the case when new technologies are created (like the telephone, for example)… but I challenge that by saying we have those technologies AND the new ones coming available.

I’m speaking in the sheer volume of ways to connect.  The number of choices we have to communicate leaves us texting each other when we’re only 50 feet away from each other, for example.

Or, worse… we start prioritizing our connections to fit as many of them as possible into what amounts to a small time frame.

Where is the time to create and develop a genuine connection if you are stuffing emails, texts, phone calls, and all of the little bits of communication into the same 8, 10, 14 or even 20 hours we all have in a day?  (20 hours for those that don’t sleep much)

If those texts, emails, phone calls etc… all were focused on one connection with someone, this could be a good way to use technology to foster genuine connection.  But come on now, tell me you do that?

Where does your multitude of daily communications take you?  Not towards one, or two people… and the relationship with them… but towards many different conversations, being made shorter because people have more ways to reach us.

(BTW, just because they have more ways to reach us, doesn’t mean we have to respond to those ways to reach us, but that’s for another post, or perhaps another chapter in the book)

So, let’s use a “get more out of less” approach here…

Let’s take each conversation, and relax, slow down, and deepen the connections we have.

Let’s focus on those relationships we want to build, but not limit those relationships to texts and Tweets.  Have lunch, make it an hour instead of 30 minutes, eat slowly… and most importantly talk face to face instead of in bits and bytes.

Because the next genuine connection could reward you with the richest experience life has to offer.  I hope you get to enjoy as many of these as possible.