The desires that drive us to connect


 Recently we had the pleasure of both presenting and attending the Creative Innovation 2011 conference in Melbourne.  The theme was ‘Challenges and opportunities in a super connected world’ and expert after expert presented cutting edge ideas from the present as well as  glimpses of the future…including do you want to live for ever (Raymond Kurzweil)?

But what are conferences if not to be provocative and present us contrary points of view?  Hugh Mackay, leading psychologist and pioneering social researcher did just that, in his session ‘The desires that drive us to connect’.

Hugh Mackay presented the double paradox of a super connected world.  The illusion that technology brings us together, but actually keeps us apart.  He gave the example of face book friends who met up for coffee and had nothing to say to each other as they already knew everything that was happening in each other’s lives!  The other paradox is the more we connect online, the more likely we are to frustrate our deep human desires to connect. So what are our 3 deep human desires?

One of our key desires is to connect with each other. Not through data transfer but through communication that nurtures us, connects us.  We need to see and feel the expression on people’s faces, their posture, the tone of their voice, how they are dressed, and their words and we take all this into account when we are trying to interpret meaning from each other.  Technology that uses just words, is stripping out the connection and communication that happens through the conduit of personal relationships not through cyberspace.  He used the paradoxical fact that we all choose to physically attend the conference, which could have easily been done online, and also was available via face book, twitter etc as illustration of this desire!

As part of this desire we have to understand that the key to effective communication is not brighter, smarter technology but brighter, smarter listening. Yes that old chestnut.  The barriers are not technology based but based in our ability to listen. Mackay also presented research that showed there was a direct correlation between increasing workplace boredom and time spent at the screen… we always suspected that!  My take on this is even though people grumble about the number of meetings they have to attend, attending meetings no matter how tedious or boring might be tapping into this desire of ours to connect with other people face to face.

Our second deep desire is to connect with the natural world.  That is why even in high rises you can spot a struggling pot plant on the 14th floor.  Some of us express this through our pets, our gardens, bush walking etc.  This explains me seeing this as a self indulgent photo opp for my dog!

Our third desire is to connect with ourselves and unless this happens or has happened the other two won’t work.  This brings to mind the old adage ‘Know thyself’, which the esteemed psychologist Carl Rogers described as a life long project.  So what are ways in which we can connect with ourselves? Mackay cited meditation, psychotherapy,and creative self expression, art, music, writing.  To this list I would like to  add laughter, and for me personally both exercise and reading help me connect to myself. So any regular creative activity that both stimulates and stills us.

Hugh Mackay is by no means a Luddite and is not presenting this as a  dichotomous view of the world but cautioning us to do both – while we embrace technology not to forget what our three desires as human beings are.

Mackay’s presentation actually filled me with optimism, as some things never change.   We are all afraid of getting left behind by a relentless technology tsunami.  But now no matter how fast or rapidly technology changes, being able to connect face to face with other people, being able to connect with nature and with our own selves will always be the key.  And fulfilling these desires will enable us to thrive and connect with what matters most…of course while still lugging our iPad from conference to conference.

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12 Comments
  • Reply

    Wow! Great insights from Hugh Mackay – thanks for commmunicating them and adding your usual insightful commentary. This really resonates with my doctoral research on the desire to connect with others. In my research people thought meetings were tedious, yet those formal mechanisms to meet and share information and knowledge face-to-face were entrees to establishing an informal relationship… You do need both. Re connection with natural world, my recent involvement in our community guerilla garden has been a surprising source of deep satisfication. And as for the third desire, just met with a colleague and in talking about the 3 things we want to do next year realised that I really want to create something. Again, hadn’t articulated how important that desire is… So this is a great reminder to me of the criticality of attending to these basic desires in our work and play.. Thanks! Susan

    • Gabrielle Dolan
      Reply

      Thanks Susan and yes you are right it is important to remind ourselves to keep doing this. Like yourself I recently created my own vegetable garden at our holiday house and on reflecting why that gave me so much joy and satisfaction it is because of that desire to connect.

      Gabrielle

  • Murali Maheswaran
    Reply

    Technology as mediator and medium of communication presents human beings with a stark challenge, one we are less and less prepared to face partly as a result of technology saturation. Humans and the tools we make reflect only one part of our lived experience, a part heavily dependent on the restricitve definition of our consciousness as being our conscious ego and goal-centred (left brain) awareness. I think increased saturation of mediating technology will cause a dramatic increase in mind-based depressive mental illness for all the reasons Yamini presents above. However, the saving grace is that we together create this environment, abetted in part by our choice of socio-economic organisation; therefore we are able to change it. Increased dislocation and social isolation from meaningful human contact will, I believe, result in a greater movement in people towards orthodox religions which may be counter-productive and create an anti-science flavour to our common consciousness. I hope, however, that what it produces instead is a greater desire for unmediated conscious experience of living through spiritual practices and direct inquiry into the nature of things – in some ways the isolating, distorting multi-media phenomenon provides the greatest source of information, insight and inspiration in this regard. People matter, but being conscious of occupying a multiverse of experiences that are connected by the simple virtue of their co-existence matters more. Slowing the chattering mind is the key to healthier, more intense experience of both life and the potential of humanity’s ingenious inventions.

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      Murali what a rich comment drawing on mulitple dimensions. Reading your comment particularly your last sentence I was reminded about the importance of mindfulness. Just today I gained another insight from reading Dr Happy’s post on the art of doing nothing – or 7 reasons to do nothing. Both of these provide the refreshing counterpoint to the saturation and digital clutter of the age we live in.
      Regards
      Yamini

  • Mary Beth
    Reply

    What a timely article as we reflect on the year just gone and look forward to the new year ahead. COnnecting to oneself remains the key, and I have no doubt we won’t lose the desire to connect with each other and nature. Let’s hope we just don’t forget how! Storytelling is a sure way of helping to perpetuate that. Happy New Year and I look forward to your blogs in 2012.

    • Gabrielle Dolan
      Reply

      Thanks Mary Beth and yes it is a timely reminder at this time of the year when we start to reflect on the last 12 months and make plans for the year ahead. Maybe we should all add ‘connecting’ to our new years resolutions.
      Gabrielle

  • Dilip Rao
    Reply

    Great read. I see school kids connecting in entirely different ways now. Through gaming consoles and many online sources. Often there is no actual conversation. Only text which is more often then not, misinterpreted.

    As a result of many oranisations investing in SEO/SEM the most relevant message may not rank the highest; a business problem I see in the next generation is that if people cannot find a source in the first page of google, it’s not going to exist. Hence our ability to find solutions would be limited because our kids do not communicate or connect. They search. it might be simpler to just pick up the phone and say g’day, a lesson that I ope our kids learn.

  • David Stuart
    Reply

    Very interesting …

    It’s kind of a relief to think that, in spite of all the online social networking, face to face communication is still a deep desire.

    And as you say that some things never change.

    Thanks for the post.

    David

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      Thanks David. It is interesting to note and perhaps unsurprising given Mackay’s research that the social media explosion (for example face book, twitter etc) all seem to be around connecting with other people online. This on line behaviour mimics our deepest desire in the real world. So a full circle and like you said some things never change!
      Regards
      Yamini

  • Shirley Allen
    Reply

    Seeing your name on my Inbox is a source of great pleasure. As an 80+ yr old but very actively engaged in community affairs and in the importance of communication, your suggestions are very helpful. I find that I am evaluating presentations -(* how would Yamini or Gabrielle say it.). At my age, how encouraging to see the three desires of human beings, encapsulated in today’s blog!
    Thank you for enriching the lives of others in such a generous way.

    • Yamini Naidu
      Reply

      Dear Shirley
      Thank you so much – what a lovely comment, has made our day. And it is wonderful that we could share the rich insights from the conference.
      Thanks again for making our day!
      Regards
      Yamini

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