I saw a documentary about an organization called reStart, referring to restarting a life after escaping the snare of internet addiction. This was the first residential digital addiction recovery center in the U.S. Many people have become emotionally “disregulated” through preoccupation with social media and gaming. Those platforms have actually disconnected us from each other in the name of interconnectivity. At the treatment center people re-learn how to re-regulate, to communicate face-to-face and share in ‘analog’ activities.
Internet addiction recovery programs are is based on limbic resonance, the idea that the capacity for sharing deep emotional states arises from the limbic system in the brain. It refers to the capacity for empathy and non-verbal communication that is present in mammals, forming the basis of social connections. We attune to each other’s emotional states through non-verbal cues and energetic presence. This does not happen through texting or on social media, even with the advent of video chatting. There is something intangible but quite powerful when we are in the actual presence of another life. Much of our communication happens through interpersonal silence. Words play only a small part.
Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who has chosen not to enter the smart phone and social media era. Most of my associations are wireless dependent. When I say my main communication device, other than face-to-face, is a land line, I get a variety of responses. Some folks wonder how I survive—but I often hear, “Wow. Good for you. I wish I could do that.” Or, “That sounds more relaxing.” Many people who are ensnared in the cell phone trap wish they could find another way.
There is something lost in our basic humanity when we think communication is just words and data. No wonder studies show that people who are addicted to digital relating are more likely to be isolated and depressed. When Buddha attained enlightenment, he saw that our natural ‘analog’ condition has no essential isolation but we need to realize that state. Our intrinsic wisdom allows us to experience empathy, limbic resonance, when in the presence of another. Data on a screen has no such living presence.
The only reason I choose to create these Dharma Journal entries online is to call folks back to the visceral world of nature and interpersonal presence. If there is any skill in these words, I hope they jump off the page and begin to live in a person’s self-reflection. Maybe they will help restart someone’s life.