Distracted compassion

Much has been written about the joys and woes of technology. It can keep us connected when distance keeps us apart and it can disconnect us although we’re in the same room. It can enable us to be more productive and achieve our goals, and it can distract us from being productive and achieving our goals.

One impact I hadn’t recognised until recently was the toll on my emotions and compassion as I flit back and forth between digital connections.

In the space of half an hour I had 5 different overlapping conversations on WhatsApp. Responding with a message on one chat while waiting for a response on another.

I was simultaneously congratulating a friend on stepping out of her comfort zone, sending meeting dates to a stranger, laughing with a friend about an incident that had happened earlier in the day, sorting out logistics with someone coming to stay with us for the weekend and discovering my friends brother had been taken into hospital.

Each “chat” was a completely different space where I not only wore a different hat but also experience a different emotion as I responded to the digital letters appearing on my phone.

This just isn’t natural! I exclaimed to my husband as he came to see if I wanted a cup of tea. His lovely offer in that moment like felt like a demand on me to wear yet another hat and feel another emotion that I simply couldn’t manage. Exasperated I realised if those conversation were all happening in real life I would finish one before starting the next, those able to see me engrossed in one conversation would wait or catch up with me at a more convenient moment. At the end of 5 back to back conversations on such differing topics the introvert in me wouldn’t be surprised at feeling tired, and the loving offer of a cup of tea would be have been very welcome.

But I had chosen to allow technology to enable me to multitask, and split my attention and compassion between 5 different situations. None of whom got my best least of all the person who needed me the most. None of which left me feeling like I’d had a fulfilling human connection. All of which, no matter how light hearted the response, left me feeling tired and depleted and enhanced the feeling that I had no words of comfort to offer my friend in crisis.

So I’m learning to take time to reply to messages, to give you my full attention because we both deserve it.

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