May 18, 2015

Alone or Lonely?


It could be easy to scoff and dismiss the Spike Jonze film “Her” as a ridiculous perversion between a loser and a laptop.

I’ll admit there were more than a few times when I exclaimed “Oh come on…it’s a computer!” during my viewing.

But. Those moments of frustration that peppered the experience of watching this film (with my boyfriend by my side) were far outweighed by the pervasive emotional heaviness and empathetic concern.

I watched a man drowning, perpetuating a cycle of dependency and fear. I watched the society in which he lived, our very own culture, do the same. Decent people, good people, unique people with ambitions and desires and needs… all twisting and knotting and trapping themselves in the same poisonous web of detachment and distraction.

Our precious little gadgets and our caste systems of social media are lulling us into a false sense of security and validation. We feel compelled to broadcast the minutiae of our lives, condensed to fragments of words and boxed images, to every available outlet for approval and attention. We are desperate to see and be seen, being sure to only share the especially brag-worthy portraits and possessions.

The accessibility of information is greater than ever before… but at what cost?

As we perpetually race in a loop with the rest of the online community, we simultaneously lose vital human connection. Our language is reduced to acronyms and emoticons; our interaction is distilled into digital dialogue and stripped of the body language and vocal inflection that is crucial to effective communication.

We can abuse, harass, and troll thanks to the disconnect of conscience and consequence that the computer provides.

We are not far from the future proposed in this film where we can implement sentient operating systems and potentially develop relationships with them… in fact, aren’t we already there? Search results and suggestions are intuitive; advertising is based on algorithms that track our activity and interests; we upload and network every segment of our lives and lifestyles into apps and programs and sites.

Our electronic devices are the first things we touch in the morning and the last things we touch at night. These flickering screens are gateways of escape that allow us to compete, distract and obsess with anyone and anything other than ourselves. We never have to be alone… and yet at our core we are still lonely.

But enough doom and gloom… because it *is* possible to achieve a healthy balance of digital and physical interaction ~ it all boils down to intention and motivation.

I have a fickle relationship with social media… I’ve created and deleted countless profiles and portfolios from various websites over the years. I easily become overwhelmed by the constant barrage of information and images, particularly all of the negativity that I just can’t seem to avoid no matter what I block, hide or unfollow. And yet I keep coming back with new accounts, new content and new perspectives.

I find that keeping myself in check with intention and motivation can both empower and protect me. If my online activity comes from a place of ego or fear, then the results will be disastrous… competition, jealousy, negativity… I refuse to get caught up in that bullshit.  But if I am motivated by a desire to infuse loving-kindness-and-compassion and an open mind in my communication with the intent of connecting, inspiring, and uplifting myself and others… if I am motivated by a desire to document my life with the intent of creating an honest archive that explores the beautifully complex aspects of existence… then my online presence and process of sharing will have profound benefit.

“Her” was a beautiful yet painful exploration of the mind and the heart, showing how the baggage of ego and fear create a sickness based on dependency and detachment that blocks us from our goal of healthy personal, social and romantic relationships. Like the protagonist in the film we all want attraction, excitement, attention, connection; to be desired, understood and valued… to give and receive love.

We need real interaction in the form of face-to-face communication and physical touch. We need genuine investment in our relationships with others that goes beyond the ease of electronics. We need the warmth of connection with living beings rather than the cold substitute of digital dialogue. We need to be present in each moment, grounded in reality and not the illusions of the internet.

We need to be confident in our own personal lives without having to desperately seek out validation from others.

We need to learn and live the difference between being alone or being lonely so that we can find beauty, peace, and solace in our solitude… so that we can truly love ourselves and others.




Author: Megan Michelle

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: screenshot

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