Staff Picks

Disconnected : How to Stay Human in an Online World

Emily Porter

May 26, 2022


Emma Gannon brings us this easy and fast read to guide us in reassessing our relationship with the devices that surround us each day.

Disconnected: How to Stay Human in an Online World by Emma Gannon, Andrews McMeel 

We are constantly connected to the internet, our eyes glued to a screen, consuming, scrolling endlessly at work and at home. Do you remember a time when you did not look at your phone for 90 minutes, when you put pen to paper or merely existed as you meandered into the woods?  

Emma Gannon, host of the beloved podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, brings us a glorious book to reevaluate our relationship with technology. I was drawn to this book as disconnecting is something I have been meaning and striving to do in my everyday life. For work I am constantly on a screen of some sort, I teach yoga sometimes virtually, and connect with family and friends via social media. I am also an artist and feel obligated to constantly freshen up my Instagram feed so people don’t forget about my work, with the ultimate hope that someone will see it and give me a show. After all that I somehow find myself in front of yet another screen. Screens, screens, screens. It can be incredibly exhausting being continuously plugged into the abyss of the internet. 

Like Gannon, I was born in 1989, so I related wholeheartedly to the nostalgia of the first AIM or myspace and how exciting it was to spend an hour on the internet before your mom kicked you off so she could plug the phone back in. And, of course, the exciting and anxiety ridden sound of the connection wails: EEEEE OOOOOO WHAH WHAH. It was a time when opening your inbox or myspace messenger sent endorphins rushing as you checked to see who sent you a message from the world wide web. It made you feel special and like you were knowledgeable of this new world. Fast forward to the modern day and it seems like everywhere you go you see people taking selfies or photos of everything they do in their lives to collect likes and endorphins. 

We are using apps created by Silicon Valley techs who refuse to use them themselves. What should that say to us? They are aware and some are regretful that they have aided in creating time- suck software that takes us away from our actual lives. Now commonly used in everyday life from home to work and in between, we are expected to act like machines, constantly responding click, click, email, zoom, send, updated. It is not within our natural existence to experience the world this way, and some of us are feeling this more than ever. We want to stay human: 

To stay human in an online world, we have to rebel against this idea that we must optimize, monetize, and be as productive as machines at every twist and turn. 

Some of us feel like, As Gannon describes, a “content farm” at work, checking emails, pressing buttons, zooming, constantly attached to machines. We continuously turn to our electronics creating a social anxiety that is caused or heightened by the electronics we depend on. 

I hope over time we can start to distance ourselves and unpick our relationship with this digital validation that most of us have grown up with. 

When I was 22, my friend at the time said I needed to get a smartphone (which had just hit the world) and I did not like the idea of it. At 23 I joined, feeling obligated to share my artwork on the new social media outlet called Instagram. Honestly, I was worried it would take control of my life as I usually do not like to be on my phone for prolonged periods of time. And I was right. It is a constant in my everyday life, as I’m sure it is in yours. And, well, it can be a bit much. Online fatigue is real, so how do we create a healthy balance for living online and off? 

Despite all the negatives being plugged in can have, it has also created a wonderful and necessary part for modern life. During the lockdown, some of us were still able to continue working from the safety of our own homes. It brings many assets to our lives, both business and personal. It has helped through a world pandemic, is a great asset for activism and bringing awareness to important topics, and also connects us with friends and family who live far away. There needs to be a balance. Gannon brings us this easy and fast read to guide us in reassessing our relationship with the devices that surround us each day. Maybe you are reading this on your phone, a break from the usual scroll. Have you questioned your relationship to your devices lately? I hope this review will prompt you to set down the phone and pick up the book. 

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