Alone together now normal

Just because something’s normal doesn’t mean it’s good.

People gather, ensuring their devices are handy, just in case a ping or alert lets them know something potentially more interesting or demanding is happening somewhere else.

This common practice easily sends the message to others that they’re not the priority.

I witnessed such a scenario at a coffee shop recently. Two women were visiting when one’s cellphone pinged. She stopped conversation mid-sentence, and picked it up.

In response to being ignored by her companion, the other lady quickly grabbed her device. Soon they were sitting together, both staring at their screens; alone together.

Being alone together is now commonplace, as our attention is often miles away from where we are. Physically here, but not present, is normal. It’s becoming rare to receive the gift of another’s undivided attention.

Our attention is a valuable commodity being marketed by savvy companies. Our attention has been commodified; it’s being mined, harvested, and sold, and we’re often not even aware.

The Social Dilemma, a Netflix 2020 documentary-drama, raises many questions about the potentially insidious effects of technology.

Technology is useful and can make life easier, when we are using it. But, when it is using us, it becomes a problem.

There’s an addictive nature built into the apps and programs we use. We’ve become dependent on these devices. Our social networks are no longer in front of us, they’re now in our pockets.

Lose your cellphone, and panic ensues; but when they break, it can feel like a loss of everything.

“My whole life is in that cellphone,” lamented a fellow who inadvertently washed his cellphone, “I don’t know what to do.” He’s not alone.

I love being in connection with important others in my life via social media, especially during recent times of social distancing. Pre-pandemic, the average adult spent between two to four hours a day on their device; that’s a good chunk of our day.

Beware the cyber-toothed tiger, it can eat us up as it claims our attention.

Digital dementia, a term coined by Manfred Spitzer in 2012, is the breakdown of the ability of the brain to think. Poor short-term memory, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are only a few of the consequences of the overuse of technology.

Injuries from distracted walking are on the rise.  I’ve had people walk straight into me on the streets as they meander with their eyes transfixed by their screens.

Distracted people are increasingly walking into traffic, unaware of their surroundings. It’s becoming such a problem some municipalities are now banning texting while walking. It’s hard to believe.

While there are many things we can’t control, we are the only ones who have control over where we place our attention.

Awareness is curative.

Utilizing the weekly screen time report on your phone is a great way to draw attention to your use of your device.

It’s respectful to the people in our presence to leave our device out off sight, and with alerts off. Keeping our devices out of the bedroom is also helpful. Being mindful of your usage can lead to positive change.

Notice your own habits with technology. As we say in mindfulness, be gentle, patient, and kind in your noticing. Be curious. Self-criticism is not helpful, but gaining insight into your own ways is a place to begin.

Using technology, but not letting it use us, keeps us in the driver’s seat of our lives.


Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories