Connect or Contact:
A Call to Community

Janice Hain

  

I know as I begin to write this piece that I run the risk of sounding like ďthe Uni-bomber,Ē but olí Ted may have had some valid points--yet by no means do I endorse his way of getting them across.  Iím as big a user of todayís modern technological miracles as the next person.  Iíve owned close to every electronic gadget on the market.  I wouldnít be without my email, the Internet has brought long distance friends to the fore, and there isnít a day that goes by that I donít touch a computer.  In fact, the computer has become a very close friend--and thatís precisely the problem:  we may be too close.

In this fantastic modern world of super-connectivity, are we losing something in the process?  Has an email replaced a phone call?  Is voice mail sometimes the only way youíre able to hear the sweet voice of a friend?  Do you spend more time chatting to a stranger in a  text room than conversing face to face with your neighbor? Has getting connected replaced getting contacted?

I donít know about you, but Iím torn in a mind/body struggle of sensing a future filled with virtual friends and the deep longing for those wonderful simpler days when neighbors came over to borrow that cup of sugar.  Now, instead of ďbothering a neighborĒ we can just click and charge a 5-lb bag and have it delivered straight to our door with little or no human interaction. Oh, thatís right--today with downsizing, itís four pounds!  

Signe Dayhoff, in her book Diagonally-Parked in a Parallel Universe, recounts a two-year study conducted by Robert Kraut at Carnegie Mellonís Human-Computer Interaction Institute that indicated much like television viewing, interactive computer usage tends to reduce social involvement.  Study participants reported a decline in interaction with family members and a reduction in their circle of friends as computer online usage increased.  Seems even one hour a week had the potential to lead to depression and loneliness.  Their hypothesis was that relationships maintained over long distances with no face-to-face contact ultimately did not provide the kind of support and reciprocity that typically contribute to a sense of psychological security and happiness.

Could this be exaggerating the problem?  Maybe, and itís not my intention here to be against technology or progress, but this is just my little call to attention.  That we might all remember to veer off the information super-highway a bit, slow down and take the back road, linger on that front porch awhile with a few friends and neighbors while sipping that wonderful beverage sweetened from that borrowed cup of sugar!

The best things in life arenít things.

Art Buchwald

  


 
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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.

   

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