How the WiFi-ization of our world is impacting togetherness of humankind.
Thanks to the digital revolution which is bringing the world closer each day, we are more connected than probably ever before in human history. This interconnectedness, however, leans towards the mind, leaving the heart behind. After all, it is our mind which is actively engaged with a smartphone. A digital one is replacing the human link.
It is now easier to bond with a new model of a smartphone than with a new acquaintance. This is not an isolated regional trend, and it is sweeping the entire world. In other respects, there is an opposing force which is making us more disconnected from one another. As minds connect through the digital dimension, hearts are being disconnected, mainly through benign neglect, of our living existential aspect.
Nature’s intelligence provides us with a sky that covers all land and water on earth. This canopy guards life as we know it, and we would not be here without its protection. We now have an expanding ‘WiFi sky,’ which will eventually make the internet accessible to every human being on the planet. WiFi connectivity serves as the mind’s umbrella and its defense against boredom. The mind’s nature isn’t stillness, it thrives on the constant movement of thoughts, and the internet is a ready source of entertainment for the mind. It no longer needs to struggle through the body and the senses to seek new vistas.
For those who are accustomed to accessing the internet regularly, which now is over 50% of the world’s population, going without it for a week or longer would amount to significant mental suffering. By being online, the mind remains engaged, and its energies are locked in the direction of consuming information. The mind becomes relatively quiet as it engages with new data streaming in. If we suddenly take this avenue away, the mind’s energies will scatter, pulling the mind, and consequently the awareness we invest in the mind, in different directions.
When the screen of a smartphone comes alive, it becomes an object of meditation for the mind which is continually seeking freedom from boredom. Going online serves this need, coming at a very steep price. We lose our independence and the art of self-reliance. Being independently wealthy on the inside is being able to draw happiness from an inexhaustible inner bank account. The doors to that personal bank are through the heart and not the mind. The smartphone is turning into an extension of the mind. It has replaced human to human interaction with human to information interaction. The former, human to human interaction is a two-way street and involves the heart and the mind. There is enrichment on both sides. In the latter, human to information interaction is one-sided. It is like talking to a wall.
A smartphone has no heart or soul; through it, we are surreptitiously conditioning ourselves to become cold and distant. The heart’s natural spontaneity will be lost if we don’t involve it in our interactions. Since most interactions now take place through our smartphones, we use emoticons in place of real emotions to convey our emotional signature. It is not the same as smiling and laughing together.
No doubt, the wealth of human knowledge that is now on the internet is a significant step forward. It is accessible to anyone and from anywhere. The barrier to entry to the digital universe is thankfully low and is being lowered every day. All we need is a smartphone and internet access.
But is all this information making us happy and bringing us together?
On the internet, we are mostly consuming information for the sake of consumption. The fact that it is often freely dispensed makes it easy to overindulge. The internet is a new way of exploring life. The traditional method involved the senses such as sight, touch and hearing, and interaction with Nature and people. Exchange of information has gone from verbal and written means to click of a button, and these days it comes about through a deft swipe on a screen.
The deep and lasting relationships we have with our devices such as smartphones and tablets have now given those devices the role of being the judge of most relationships. Two humans may be sitting next to each other on a subway. But the information they consume on their phones may put them worlds apart. The internet is the mind’s watering hole. Billions are online at any given moment, and everyone is devouring content. There cannot possibly be new and unique content generated for each. We are in virtual silos in which we are now fed information that matches our interests. In the long run, there's a danger of completely disconnecting large swathes of humanity from one another, even though they may live in the same neighborhood.
The smartphone has become the ‘guard dog.’ People entering our lives now have to pass through a smartphone. In this, the heart has little or no role to play. Togetherness comes from the heart. Our minds connect when we get online, but our hearts can only connect when we hold hands, hold another’s gaze with our eyes and when we open our ears to what others are trying to say. Under the WiFi umbrella, these have become old fashioned ideas. The heart connects us to the inner aspect of our being, while the mind connects us to the outer element. Togetherness comes from the inside and cannot be forced upon us from the outside.
The mind which governs the outer aspect of our being is situationally adaptive, working to see what is in its best interest. The heart does not change, and its stable equanimity is reflective of our inner reality. We are drawn to the sight of a beautiful sunrise and a sunset even if we have seen it a countless number of times. It triggers something within our heart, and we feel a sense of oneness at that moment. In contrast, if we come across something on the internet that the mind likes, we may enjoy it once or twice, and then we move onto other things. The mind wants variety and change, which are the drivers of the mind.
The mind does not look inwards because it cannot find the variety it seeks. The heart can easily project outwards because of its quality of oneness is universal and can be found in the outer world of variety.
Just as we have a WiFi signal on our smartphones, we have a built-in inner signal, our inner voice. It is always prompting us to go in the right direction. Since the mind is not loud and overpowering, the faint whispers of the heart's inner voice are drowned out. It says the same thing in every situation, “we are all one.” This inner voice is present in each one of us.
Our minds are collections of individual bits and pieces of information. Just like the internet has brought information from every part of the world to one place, if we pursue the way of the heart, which is oneness, it can bring all minds together. We can then share, not cold and dry information, but the warm embrace of humanity.