Connectedly Disconnected: Survive, Strive, Revive | 10-minute read

Connectedly disconnected
Image courtesy of Anne Hoang from Unsplash:

Our minds and bodies have become so disconnected that we can effortlessly spend 3 hours on social media or video games while we can’t even last 5 minutes on a physical workout routine. I’m not talking about physical fatigue. It’s not about “back in my day,” but what it does for or to us. Scrolling endlessly keeps our mind engaged while our bodies are static; virtually endless dopamine. Other non-physical activities don’t. Painting or reading books don’t usually capture our minds as much as social media and video games. Oh, and regarding video games, I’m referring to competitive titles. More on this later.

Our mind needs our body to be well to function well. When we are sick with colds and cough, our day is in disarray. If we work out before engaging in an activity even if it doesn’t require an ounce of physicality, we perform like our top-tier selves because blood circulates better. Those of us who have much of our day-to-day lives connected to social media find that we engage in physical and mental workouts to have something to post. And I quote my daughter, “What’s the use of a camera if you’re not going to post it and why post something if not for an audience?”

Never in our history has mental wellness been discussed as much as it is now. The irony: we have tools to assist us in everything but we have less time for anything. “There’s an app for that” has never been truer than it is today but humanity has also been driven into unprecedented levels of panic and despair.

But if we think about it, this is not an irony. It is supposed to be an expectation. We lose what we don’t use. Muscles atrophy when we don’t move or exercise. When we do not practice something often enough, we lose the capacity to exercise or show it like grace, empathy, or love for something. Things do not grow unless they have a reason to grow. We all know this. This is a truth of the world; a fact. “Death is the only constant” and all that.

The State of Being Connectedly Disconnected

But it is not true in the digital world. Our data in the cloud does not degrade. Files do not disappear from storage devices. Save files in video games can last an eternity in our memory cards (unless there’s a bug). This is why when a game like World of Warcraft or Genshin Impact dies, a lot of people take it as bad as (sometimes worse than) the death of a person. I’m not talking about this in terms of human emotions. I’m referring to our logistics, our routines. This is because we expect that all our data is eternal. “Why shouldn’t it?”

But they’re not, at least not practically. Evernote changed from totally free to limited to 50 notes. Remember when Gmail offered unlimited storage for email but is now limited to 15 GB? But our minds and hearts are not made of digital stuff. We are finite. Our bodies are able to recover less and less as we age. Our mental health has a limit. We need to recover regularly. This needs to be practiced.

A lot, if not everything, decreases when consumed. But such is not the case with social media. The more we consume social media, the more it grows. While this aspect is not limited to it and expands to other areas such as AI, no other thing takes our minds captive as social media does. I haven’t seen anybody use AI for entertainment. Or maybe not yet. The AI I’m referring to here are those similar to ChatGPT, not AI-powered Vtubers and waifus because those are for a different topic which cover parasocial relationships. Social media started out as a way to “reconnect with loved ones from far away,” “Keep us updated with friends from a long time ago.”

We know where we are today with this. But we also know and feel that there is something different when we meet people, in person, face to face, 1 meter away. It feels… better. Concerts, group exercises, games, competitions; these simply make us feel better because of oxytocin. I would like to specify that these examples are for if and when we actively and consciously participate in them, not when we are forced to do or join them. When we watch a virtual concert, we feel “wow I wanna be there!” not necessarily referring to the people in the concert. The same goes for games, tournaments, and competitions. Ever joined a group exercise thing on Zoom?

We need each other. The internet made us less dependent on each other. But the more socially independent we become, the faster we lose ourselves: our purpose, our drive, our “insurance”. We celebrate the ability to live alone. But I find that for each year that passes, it is a thing only while we are young. Only a few people know (read: nobody) that I was an intentionally self-isolating recluse in high school; I was (also) a teenager in the mid to late 90’s.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I dread social gatherings, group photos, conventions. Mind the present tense. I would like to distinguish from the broad “I don’t like people” spectrum. I do appreciate an intimate (not necessarily romantic) meeting; one where you can talk about stuff like anime, interests, electronic music, fighting games, computers, problems, solutions, etc. These are where small talk isn’t necessary because you know what you want to talk about. My point is that I know what I’m talking about when I say I don’t want to be in a crowd.

But we are humans. Much like the fact that we don’t have 2 stomachs and that we can’t fly using our own physical bodies, our minds and hearts have a need for deep human connection. I hope we can all realize how much people need us – and how much we need them.

You can read my other thoughts here:

Credits to Anne Hoang from Unsplash for the featured image I used in this post.

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