A few weeks ago I was in northern Norway with my husband. We were on an expedition with a group of 15 people to view the Northern Lights. It was a beautiful spectacle, really beautiful. It was also very, very cold 🙂 . That’s why there was also a small hut, with a real fire at which you could warm up.
While we were sitting around the fire with the group, I noticed that everyone was looking their phones. One group of young people were playing games. Some older people were looking at the pictures they had taken while traveling.
My husband and I were a little surprised, and after we’d raised our eyebrows at each other, I became quite curious about what motivates so many people to spend so much time on their phones. I tried to look at it openly, honestly and curiously. I’d like to share my thoughts with you.
Hungry for some contact and connection
It seemed as if all of us there, in that hut, were afraid to make contact with each other. Most people opted for digital contact and not for a conversation with the others sitting around the fire.
We know that the need for intimacy is one of the most important needs for a person and one of the most important motivators to explain people’s behaviour. I already wrote a blog about the 3 basic needs in TA. You can find it here.
Need for intimacy
You would think that sitting in the far North around the fire and exchanging stories would meet that need. Getting to know each other when you’re in a new group. Finding common ground. That’s the way I grew up and what I’m used to. Is it the only ‘right’ way to find intimacy and connection? Apparently not.
The youth around that fire in northern Norway had great fun playing their game. The others visibly enjoyed immediately sharing the Northern Lights photos with their circle of friends.
So apparently digital contact can really meet the need for intimacy. That’s also a form of connection, sharing a common interest.
I can also very well imagine that after seeing such a powerful, almost surreal spectacle as the Northern Lights, people need an anchor, a line back to the home front. An app or text message to a loved one who is not there helps to be ‘seen’ again by the others. So rather than the connection with people around the fire, intimacy with loved ones who are (sometimes literally) on the other side of the world.
What “intimacy” looks like has changed completely due to rapid social evolution. The need for contact, to be seen by others, is human and remains unchanged. Only the shape is different.
Do you feel a difference between “digital contact” and “live contact”?
One step further: If you assume that stress is contagious (as we do in TA and Embodied Coaching and Therapy), then rest is also contagious. Can we then say that digital contact with a loved one can also make you calm and that your environment also benefits from this? Do you feel a difference? How? What are the reasons for choosing digital contact or not?
Enjoy the digital contact, wherever possible. Go and test whether it really meets your need for intimacy. Go and test what it brings you: what is the difference between you and your beloved apping or a candle-lit dinner with eye contact? Which do you choose?
Do you want to know more about regulating your own stress and how stress, but also rest, are contagious? Two modules of the Embodied Coaching and Therapy training are all about this. Look at this page for the next opportunity to enrol in this course.
Is it a new form of intimacy that we read our messages together, read our digital newspaper and follow the news? Can we also get satisfaction from that? I’m quite curious about this!
I’ve also noticed that I find it difficult not to have an automatic opinion on this subject. That is why looking at a situation open-minded works well. With this you challenge yourself to take a step back and view the situation in a different light. From that perspective, I think we can see a challenge in how to discuss digital media.