Disconnect

Man alone at the beach

(Image: 火火 馬)

For the past few years, I’ve been feeling very disconnected.

While I used to enjoy interacting with my readers via Facebook, today I feel that social media has become a space for knee-jerk reactions. Facebook today highlights posts that are already popular while suppressing other content. Because the posts that get quick responses tend to pander to anger, fear, and the human ego or contains information that is easy to read but does nothing to change your life, posts that get tons of likes and shares are things like selfies, memes, and surface tips. These posts get prioritized by Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm to get seen by more people, hence gaining more likes, shares, and comments.

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The internet today has over a billion websites with so many creators and users. But I have never felt as alienated as today. The online coaching world is like a Ponzi scheme with people getting rich from telling people how to be rich. Think Yahoo in the 1990s with banner ads.[2] Yahoo was hugely successful in the 1990s because investors were excited about the internet, which got them investing in internet startups, which led to these startups spending money on Yahoo’s banner advertising, which then got Yahoo’s revenue to grow and got more people excited. FYI Yahoo got sold in July 2016 at just four percent of its market capitalization in 2000.

But it’s a bubble where winners are (a) people who are already successful online, (b) people who sell the “make money online” dream to others, and (c) people who can carve out their niche despite the intense competition. Group C makes up only 0.01% of coaches and internet business owners, and the reason why they can succeed has nothing to do with the courses they are taking and more to do with their hard work and talent. (I share more on the problem with the online world here, here, and here.)

I am connected to so many of you, yet I feel like I need to fight with so many people just to reach out to you. I’ve to write enticing post titles, write exciting article openers, and keep my articles short yet deep and fun to read at the same time. How am I supposed to do all of that in one post? When I open up a contact form, it gets loaded with spam and requests that have nothing to do with PE. I stay away from connecting with anyone today other than my trusted friends, because other communications almost always end up with some kind of favor or request to do something for free.

Even though I live in Singapore which is one of the most densely populated countries in the world[3], I feel increasingly alone here.

  • Everywhere you go, people are jostling to get from place to place with tired looks on their faces.
  • The spaces are optimally designed for walking and living, and that’s about it. Space is a constraint everywhere and you don’t feel like there’s a space to rest and relax.
  • You can’t help but feel like a dollar sign at public spaces as promoters pounce on you to pitch some product or service.
  • I see the elderly wiping tables and cleaning toilets and I have no idea why they are doing that 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 worldwide with the most number of millionaires per capita[4][5], I don’t feel rich here, be it emotionally or spiritually. To say that I feel disillusioned would be to put it mildly.

Busy, crowded street filled with people

Busy street

In a world where people are more connected than ever, that means that we now have ready access to everything at our fingertips. Whether it’s news, videos, or messages, everything can be accessed with a click. Social media floods us with content every second — we are no longer information deprived.

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But…

  • Just because a site is popular doesn’t mean that it is good quality.
  • Just because a news site is the official news site doesn’t mean that it is broadcasting the truth or unbiased news.
  • Just because a blogger is aggressive at selling their stuff doesn’t mean that their products are of better quality.
  • Just because Facebook or YouTube is showing you 30 things in your feed now doesn’t mean that these are the 30 best things you should be seeing. Most web algorithms today are based on the lowest common denominator of user preferences. Meaning, angst filled content, things that make you giggle but don’t really change your life, and content that doesn’t require much thought.
  • Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s good or it’s the best.

In a world where everyone is connected, we may feel disconnected if we try to connect with everyone and everything. Doing so means being overloaded in all things. It means having many connections, yet these connections are superficial at the same time — touch and go, hi and bye. It means receiving a lot of information, yet it’s questionable as to how much of this info will help us become conscious human beings. It means being weighed down by low-level drivel online. Online has become a terrible way to build high-quality connections and communicate meaningfully.

This is where we disconnect.

We disconnect, not in the sense of disconnecting from the internet. We disconnect in the sense of disconnecting from what’s negative and what doesn’t help us or others. Meaning,

  • Disconnect from media outlets that broadcast fear-based news and propaganda.
  • Disconnect from websites that are bullshit.
  • Disconnect from sites that load you with low-level information that keeps you busy but do nothing to help you change or improve your life.
  • Disconnect from the negativity online.
  • Disconnect from content that keeps you at low levels of consciousness, such as greed, desire, lust, self-doubt, and pride (read my Map of Consciousness article). For example, there are tons of beauty content online today but one should ask if this really empowers women in becoming beautiful or if it simply keeps women locked in narrow constructs of beauty.
  • Disconnect from people who are negative and who take us for granted.

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. Feedly is a great tool to subscribe to your favorite sites, bookmark articles and control the content you see.
  • Connect with sites that match your interests rather than sites that are popular or happen to appear in your news feed.
  • Connect with people who are doing good work in this world. People who care about making a difference.

And make a conscious effort to share content that matters, that has made some difference to your life. People who are most proactive about sharing, talking, and reacting online tend to be angry people, which is why the popular stuff online tends to be negative or fear-based. If all of us make an effort to like/share the meaningful and good stuff, this will quickly raise the average consciousness of the internet.

I call this conscious connection.

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So in the end, we still connect. The difference is that we connect consciously. We become mindful of what we see and disconnect from the things that don’t make us better. We connect with the things that align with our values and support us in doing good in the world.

In doing so, we can make better sense of a world that is overloaded with noise. By learning to filter out the bad and connect with the good, we are now in a better position to pursue our life purpose and add value to others in the world.

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