In a world where we are increasingly connected, I feel oddly disconnected.
While we have Facebook that connects us with people, I feel that social media has become a tool for low-level messages and knee-jerk reactions. Facebook today tends to showcase posts that are already getting traction, and because the posts that gather quick responses tend to pander to low levels of human emotion or just consists of derivative information that is easy to read but does nothing to change your life, the posts that get tons of likes/shares are then things like selfies, meme, and surface tips, which get prioritized by their news feed algorithm to get seen by more people, hence gaining more likes, shares, and comments.
We have the internet with over a billion websites today. But I haven’t felt as alienated as I do now. The online coaching and business world has become a semi-ponzi scheme, with people getting rich from telling people they can make them rich, and people getting starry eyed and jumping in. Think Yahoo in the 1990s with banner ads. Yahoo was hugely successful in the 1990s and early 2000s, not because it had something huge going on, but because investors in general were just excited about the internet, which got them investing in startups, which then led to the startups spending money on Yahoo’s banner advertising, which then got Yahoo’s revenue to grow, and got even more people excited. By the way, Yahoo got sold in July 2016 at a small fraction (4%) of its market capitalization in 2000.
But no one realizes the huge bubble building here, where the only big winners are (a) those already at the top of the game, (b) those who sell the “make money online” dream to the users still not on board, and (c) the 0.01% of hustlers who manage to navigate and carve their niche despite the noise online. And the reason group (c) will succeed will have less to do with the “internet business gurus” than their own hard work, intellect, and ability to stay focused. The others in the meantime are just part of the bubble, keeping the money flowing and the cogs turning. (I share more on the problem with the online world here, here, and here.)
Then as more folks come online to start their business, we have even more noise. Popups everywhere, everybody fighting to get your email, and everybody trying to get you on their list. After you get on their list, you are bombarded with all kinds of pre-sales content, marketing messages, and urgency triggers. In the end, many people are talking and talking, selling and selling, but very few have something going on.
I am connected to so many of you, but I feel like I need to fight with so many people just to get your attention, so that I may perhaps give you one nugget of information to help you in your growth. Enticing article titles; exciting openers; keeping my articles short yet deep and full of examples, all while making them fun to read at the same time. How am I realistically supposed to do all of that?
I am connected to so many of you, yet I feel like I can’t connect fully with you. Because when I open up a contact form, the channel becomes loaded with spam, noise, and requests for favors that have nothing to do with PE. I am literally scared of connecting with anyone today except my trusted friends, because any other communication always invariably ends up with a request to promote stuff, be an affiliate, etc… which then turns out to be the true reason for the connection.
I come from Singapore which is the third most densely populated country in the world, yet I have never felt more alone here than anywhere in the world.
- Everywhere you go, people are jostling, side-stepping, rushing from place to place, with stressed, tired, and empty looks on their faces.
- The walking and living spaces here are optimally designed for walking and living, and that’s about it.
- I walk along public stretches to trains/malls, and I feel like a dollar sign with legs as promoters eye me from afar and zoom in on me to pitch some credit card or new estate launch when I’m just trying to get some alone space.
- I see very old people in their 60s, 70s, 80s wiping tables and cleaning toilets, and I have no idea why when they have probably given up the best decades of their lives toiling for a nation that has become so rich, in part due to their sacrifices.
For the third richest country in the world with the most number of millionaires per capita, I sure don’t feel rich, be it emotionally or spiritually, here. To say that I feel disillusioned would be to put it mildly.
In a world where everyone is more interlinked than ever, it means that we now have ready access to everything at our fingertips. News, videos, messages; everything can be accessed in a click. Social media floods us with content every second, content filtered by algorithms, trending news, or messages being pushed through by the powerhouses.
But just because we are connected to something doesn’t mean that it’s the best for us.
Just because a site is popular or the official news site doesn’t mean that it is broadcasting good quality news, as it could just be driving concealed propaganda to further its cause.
Just because a blogger is more aggressive at pitching their stuff doesn’t mean that they have better stuff to share; it just means that they are aggressive at pitching stuff.
Just because Facebook is showing you some 30 things in your news feed now doesn’t mean that these are the 30 best things that will improve your life. Most web algorithms today are based on what’s trending, which tends to be driven by the lowest common denominator of user preferences. Meaning, angst-driven messages, things that scratch an itch, content that doesn’t require much thought, or things that are just funny — maybe because most of us lack positivity in our lives today.
Sometimes, you can be seeing a message that’s carefully constructed to break down your self-control and make you buy into their agenda, sales pitch. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s good or the best. Just because something is highly engaged, with lots of shares doesn’t mean that it’s useful — it may just be noise.
In a world where everyone is interconnected, we may feel disconnected if we try to connect with everything and everyone. Doing so means being overloaded in all things. It means being overloaded with many connections, yet these connections are superficial at the same time — touch and go, hi-bye, nothing more than that. It means receiving a lot of information, yet it’s questionable as to how much of this info will help us become conscious human beings and live better lives. It means being weighed down by the lowest level of drivel online, from fear-based messages to hate to just low quality stuff. Online has a flood of information now, but I’d say that much of this is nonsense/noise, and online has also become a terrible way to build high quality connections and communicate in a meaningful way.
This is where we disconnect.
We disconnect, not in the sense of disconnecting from the internet. The internet is great despite its issues (which are really caused by being connected to everyone, good or bad), and it’d be silly to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
We disconnect in the sense of disconnecting from what’s negative, what doesn’t help us (or others). Meaning,
- Disconnect from media outlets that are constantly broadcasting nothing but fear-based news and/or propaganda
- Disconnect from sites that are bullshit
- Disconnect from sites that load you with repetitive, trivial stuff that keeps you busy, yet does nothing to change / act on your life
- Disconnect from the negativity and angry discourse, along with very low-level discussions, online
- Disconnect from content that keeps you at low levels of consciousness, such as greed, desire, lust, self-doubt, a quest for materialism, pride, among others (read my Map of Consciousness article). For example, there are tons of beauty content online today but one should ask if these really empower women in becoming beautiful, or if they simply keep women locked in mental constructs on how they should see themselves and beauty.
- Disconnect from people who are negative, who take us for granted, and who expect and take from us without reciprocating
Basically, disconnecting from being busy. I call this conscious disconnection.
And then we connect.
- Connect with the meaningful stuff.
- Connect with people who value what you do. People who show their care and support.
- Connect with sites that have deep, long-form content that gets you thinking. I find Feedly a great tool to subscribe to your favorite sites, bookmark articles, control the content you see, and stay away from the noise online. It’s free too.
- Connect with sites that match your interests, rather than sites that are popular or that happen to appear in your news feed. I figure that following content that I like is much more valuable for my growth than reading about yet another fear-based news pushed to my face by a news site or seeing the average trending update on Facebook/Twitter.
- Connect with people who are doing good work in this world. Who care about making a difference, rather than maximizing time spent on site or shareholder profit or how to make more money at the expense of all things. Connect with people whose life’s work isn’t about just hedonistic living or self-gratification at the expense of all else.
And make a conscious effort to share the content that matters, that has made some difference to your life. I notice that people who are most proactive about sharing, talking, and reacting online tend to be angry people, which is why the popular stuff online tends to be the negative or fear-driven. And then there is the younger population whose interests are probably similar to what we liked when we were younger, like fashion, beauty, material goods — largely things that keep the society busy but don’t forward the human civilization ultimately. If all of us who normally just silently read stuff make an effort to like/share the meaningful and good stuff, this may well raise the average consciousness of the things we see online.
I call this conscious connection.
So in the end, we are still connecting. We are connecting consciously. Being mindful of what we see and disconnecting from what we don’t want to see, that doesn’t serve us and make us better.
Maybe as we consciously connect and disconnect, this will help give us more order and value in our lives. While there are many things we cannot change about the world and internet yet, we can change how we interact and connect with content and people online, in turn creating a world of highest meaning to us. Actively seeking conscious material, actively sharing conscious material with others, rather than being a passive observer. By first creating a life that is emotionally and spiritually rich to us, we can then give to others, and help lift everyone up to create a better world.
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