Although there is excellent research being done on theories of causation and there are now many organizations, websites, and legal channels from which to challenge the viral wave of abuse circulating through our social networking devices, until we are willing to vaccinate ourselves with new behaviours, we will find ourselves chasing after a contagion that is far beyond our containment. In order to boost our immune systems, we must cleanse ourselves of beliefs and assumptions which are sustaining interpersonal harmful social norms, and we must infuse ourselves with doses of intrapersonal antidotes which will support healthier ways of human interaction.
Let’s examine the first of three responses – “The Vaccine of Being Present.”
The Vaccine of Being Present
As we become more and more dependent on our social networking devices for fulfilling our relational needs, we disconnect and detach from human interaction. This anonymity serves us well to some degree. However, the more we interact with a device, the more self-focused we become and we are further conditioned to respond to what we are feeling, not another human being. Thus, when we consistently remove ourselves from face to face contact, we lose the ability to be present for one another. When we are present for another being, we can experience the feelings and emotions of another, and we develop empathy for him/her. When we are able to empathize with another human being, we strengthen our personal connection to that individual and we lessen or weaken the capacity to detach from him/her. In other words, being present helps us to inoculate ourselves against being indifferent.
How then, do we move from a norm which fuels and feeds anonymity to one that nourishes human connection?
We start by talking about being indifferent.
Whether it is in a classroom, workplace, home or any kind of socially appropriate setting, we must set time aside to talk about the disconnect that is taking place among individuals in our society. We must examine why it is occurring, and we absolutely must uncover what we stand to gain in reversing this trend.
We start by introducing or reintroducing being present into our lives.
We must set aside periods of time within our schedules, programs, or curriculums to practice being present for one another. Communication exercises that include active listening, empathic reflective listening, and role playing need to be implemented. Participants need to put away all technology for designated periods of time and participate in consistent planned activities which allow them to experience person to person contact and the wonder of connecting with another individual. Spending time processing the benefits and effects of these exercises is an important post activity.
We begin by not accepting that the only dominant way to communicate with others is through technology.
We, as parents, teachers, leaders, facilitators, and organizers, must model effective communication strategies and tools that do not include technology and/or that condone its dependence. Organizational structures such as staff meetings, group discussions, classroom activities, or workshops or trainings must include practices such as small group process, one on one exchanges, and pairing – sharing exercises. Providing ongoing opportunities to engage in face to face contact will increase its chances of taking hold.
We begin by making time to experience the art of being present.
We, those of us in any kind of leadership or guidance position, must make it a priority to schedule specific periods of time for non-technological social or professional activities. We must be the ones to demonstrate the value of making time for one another by creating an environment which facilitates its implementation. Daily or weekly syllabi, schedules, or meetings must include designated notification of such activities and of their required attendance. In order to make being present a valued social norm, we must expect it from ourselves; we must not accept anything less.