A PROBABILITY OF WORDS Text Thomas Lloyd Qualls Photo Johnstone Studios You’re cruising Facebook and watching the daily unfolding of other people’s lives. Not very many years ago this was called stalking, or maybe worse if you were looking in the windows of someone’s house. But now the windows of others’ lives are flung open wide. And we’ve all become voyeurs.
That is to say, outsiders looking in. When I say all of us, it is true. Because there’s an opportunity cost to everything. If you’re doing this, you’re not doing that. If you’re out and about with friends, you’re not in and cozy with someone you love. If you’re working on an exciting and ambitious project, you’re not on the beach somewhere. The recently coined fear of missing out (fomo) is not really all that new. It is just magnified and enhanced by our technologically-centered lives. We are addicted to our phones because they have become our connection to the world and the people around us.
And I used the word addiction, because that's what it is.
evolved over time to something much greater. New research shows that addiction has a lot to do with a lack of connection to other humans.
And as I discussed in April, it's also important to connect to the world around us. The new science shows we actually require social connection in order for our brains to develop properly. And to continue to operate properly. But it is possible for our short-circuited brains to rewire themselves. With every external connection we make, whether through touch, eye contact, talking, listening, or laughter, we create new neural pathways. These external connections allow us to create new internal connections.
In other words, as inside, so outside. And speaking of outside. Spending time in nature also helps us rewire our brains. In fact, new science shows that in our increasingly urbanized lives, it’s actually mandatory for us to spend more time in nature in order to avoid the onset of mental illness.
And seriously, who do you know who isn't a little bit off these days.
I guess I've always liked the underdogs.
I’m not just talking about the ionic benefits of being near the ocean. We need to walk on the Earth’s skin, not just our concrete sidewalks. We need to surround ourselves with trees, to walk beside the melodic sound of streams, to touch our bare feet to the grass, to feast upon the bright colored leaves, to crunch them in our hands, beneath our feet, to put our cheeks to the soft furry moss, feel the wind in our faces, and smell the vast fecundity of the natural world.
I don't think I really got the title back then. I liked the characters. I liked their odd names. And though I didn't go to a private school, or have a lot of money, my life still had almost nothing in common with the lives of the Northside greasers. Still, I related to them and to their palpable but unspoken desire to be connected somehow to the world around them. Despite the fact that the world that had cast them to the margins – or maybe because of that fact.
And we need to remember that our technological connections, as mind-bendingly instantaneously gratifying as they are, are just metaphors for the real thing. We need to remember not to forget how to have a real conversation, to look each other in the eyes, to give freely of our hugs and smiles, to be genuinely interested in the lives of others. And to not be so focused on the moment-by-moment self-promotion of our own.
One of my favorite books as a kid was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Kind of a modern day West Side Story. But set in the Midwest. And a North-South thing. But also a rich kid-poor kid thing. And the heroes were all poor kids.
We all need to belong. It is essential. These stories never really leave us. And while our need to connect likely has its roots in something deeply biological, like safety and survival, it has 6 Reno Tahoe Tonight
We need to remember our true home.
Here’s your challenge: Put this down for a minute (or turn it off ) and connect to one of the humans closest to you. Buy them coffee, give them a hug, or take them on a walk in the trees. Your brain will thank you.