Disconnect

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Man alone at the beach

In a world where everyone is increasingly connected, I feel oddly disconnected.

While we have Facebook that links us with people, I feel that social media has become more of a tool for low level transmissions and knee jerk reactions. Because most social media channels (by most, I guess I really mean FB) showcase posts that are already getting traction, and because the posts that gather quick and ready responses tend to pander to lower levels of human emotion — anger, outrage, desire, lust, envy — or are just very derivative kinds of info that are easy to read and digest but do nothing to change one’s life, the posts that get tons of likes/shares/comments then become things like selfies, memes, and surface-level tips, which in turn get prioritized by the news feed algorithm, which in turn get seen by more people, hence gaining more likes, shares, and traction.

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We have the internet that is estimated to have over a billion websites[1] and hence trillions of pieces of content today. But I haven’t felt as alienated as I do now. The internet business industry has become kind of like an elaborate ponzi scheme, with people getting rich from telling people they can make them rich/free, and (more and more) people getting starry eyed and jumping in as they see these folks getting rich from teaching others to be rich. Think Yahoo in the 1990s with banner ads.[2] 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 then got even more people excited. (Yahoo got sold last month (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 from here on are (1) those who are already at the top of the game, (2) those who sell the “make money online” dream to those who still haven’t gotten on board, and (3) the 0.01% of hustlers who manage to navigate and carve their niche despite the noise online. And the reason the latter will do so will have less to do with anything than their own intellect, hard work, ability to stay focused, and finesse. The others, in the meantime, are just padding the industry, keeping the money flowing, and keeping the cogs turning.

Then as more folks come online to start their blogs/businesses, we have even more noise in the already noisy online space. Popups on every website, 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 concrete going on.

I am connected to so many of you, yet I feel like I need to fight with so many people out there each day just to get your attention, so that I may perhaps give you one small nugget of info that may help you in your growth. Enticing article titles; exciting openers to my content; and keeping my articles short yet deep and chocked full of examples, all while making them exciting to read at the same time (how am I supposed to do that?). I am connected to so many of you, yet I feel like I can’t connect fully with you. Because when I do things like open up a contact form or open myself to questions, the channel becomes loaded with spam, noise, promotional requests, requests for reviews, requests for favors that have nothing to do with PE, etc. I am literally scared of connecting with anyone today except my husband and trusted friends (who happen to never need anything from me), because any other communication always invariably ends up with a request to promote stuff, be an affiliate, get a favor, or use my PE platform to some person’s benefit… which then turns out to be the true reason for the connection.

I come from Singapore which is flooded with people (it is the third most population dense country in the world now[3], a big jump from 10, 20 years ago), 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 for some, empty looks on their faces. Walking and living spaces 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 space alone. I see very old people 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[4] with the most number of millionaires per capita[5], I sure don’t feel rich, be it emotionally or spiritually, here.

Busy, crowded street filled with people

Busy street

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 at a click of a button. We are also now ready recipients of every single message that can be found online, particularly things like content filtered by algorithms, trending news, or messages that are being pushed through by the powerhouses.

Yet, just because we are connected to something or seeing something doesn’t mean that this is what’s best for us. Just because a site is an official news site doesn’t mean that it is broadcasting good quality news, as much as it could be driving concealed propaganda to further its cause. Just because a site owner is more aggressive at pitching stuff doesn’t mean that they have better stuff to share; it just means they are just 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 better your life. As much as postings can be based on algorithm, most web algorithms today are based on what’s popular and trending, which tends to be based on the lowest common denominator of internet user preference/behavior. Meaning, anger-driven messages, things that scratch an itch, content that doesn’t require much thought, trivial posts of the same few tips over and over again, or even things that are just funny — maybe because most of us lack humor and positivity in our lives today. Sometimes, what you’re seeing can well be a promoted or an artfully constructed message meant to take up your mind space. And we all know that just because something is popular, doesn’t mean that it’s good or it’s the best.

In a world where everyone is interconnected, we may end up feeling disconnected if we try to connect with everything, everyone. Doing so means being overloaded in all aspects of things. It means being overloaded in connections, yet having superficial connections at the same time — touch and go, hi and bye, nothing more than that. It means receiving a lot of information, yet it’s questionable as to how much of this info is useful in helping us become conscious human beings and live better lives. It means being weighed down by the lowest level of drivel that’s online, from fear-based messages to hate to just overall low quality stuff.

This is where we disconnect.

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We disconnect, not in the sense of disconnecting from the net entirely. 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,

  • disconnecting from media outlets that are constantly broadcasting nothing but fear-based news and/or propaganda
  • disconnecting from sites that are bullshit
  • disconnecting from sites that keep loading you with repetitive, trivial stuff that keeps you busy, yet does nothing to change / act on your life
  • disconnecting from the negativity and angry discourse, along with very low-level discussions, online
  • disconnecting from content that keeps you at low levels of consciousness, such as greed, desire, lust, self-doubt, quest for materialism, pride, among others (read my Map of Consciousness article). E.g., there are tons of beauty content online today, but one should ask whether they really empower women in becoming beautiful, or whether they simply keep women locked in certain mental constructs on how they should see themselves and beauty.
  • disconnecting from people who are negative, who take us for granted, and who expect more 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. Lately I have been following sites like Aeon.co, The New Yorker, Observer (Business and Tech category), and Harvard Business Review. I find their writing much higher in quality than the average site online. 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. Lately I started to follow vegan sites, again using Feedly. I’ve always had an interest in veganism, though I had never actively sought out content on it — until now. I figured that following content that I like and directly curating what I see is more valuable for my growth than reading about yet another fear-based news or the average content online.

And perhaps, make a conscious effort to share the content that actually 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 the really angry ones, which is partly 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 young(er), such as fashion, beauty, material goods — largely things that keep the society busy as a whole, but don’t forward the human civilization at the end of the day. If we make an effort to like/share the meaningful, good stuff, this may well raise the average consciousness level of what we see online.

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I call this conscious connection.

So in the end, we are still connecting. We are just doing so 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 maximum meaning, 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 them, in turn creating a world of highest meaning to us. By first living a life that is emotionally and spiritually rich to us, we can now then give to others, and help lift them up to create a better world.

Note: As part of reducing the noise online and making it easier for you to access the content that you want, I’m currently doing major housekeeping, including re-sorting my articles and doing layout tweaks.

  • If you visit the Articles section, you’ll see that the articles are now neatly filed into key categories. These categories can be easily toggled on or off, so you can jump right into the category of your choice. 🙂 Having written so many articles over the past 8 years, there’s a lot of sorting to do as I think about how to best present the content to you. I’m still in the middle of it and hope to be done by next week.
  • When you read the PE articles on the PE website itself, below each article, you can now see the category or categories the article is filed in. I have deliberately picked only a max of 1-3 categories for each post to avoid clutter. Clicking each category will lead you to all the articles in that category, sorted in reverse chronological order. You can see it in action by visiting this link and scrolling to the bottom.

With that, I hope to cut down, even remove, the “related posts” links that I often insert at the end of each post. Not only will it simply the reading experience, it will also reduce backend work. If you ever want to read related content, simply click the category buttons at the bottom of that post or visit the Articles section. Enjoy! 🙂

Image: Man alone at the beach

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