The Brainy Brunch: Connected but Alone?
7 May 2014 - Impact Hub

As I sit down to write this blog, I have 10 tabs open on my computer and have already been distracted several times by phone calls and a few ‘important’ emails and text messages that I really had to send before starting writing. Which is ironic, because this month’s Brainy Brunch was all about our digitally distracted lives.

Just before the Brainy Brunch

Centred around a wonderful TED talk called Connected: But Alone? by Sherry Turkle, a psychologist with a specialism in human-technology interaction, the event was divided into two parts: firstly focused on our connectedness with each other, and secondly on connectedness with ourselves.
In the first part, Turkle’s talk, along with a short film called ‘I forgot my phone’ and a very funny diatribe by comedian Louis CK, warned us about our increasing obsession with our digital devices: how our 24hr connectivity means we never allow ourselves to be in the present moment or to spend time by ourselves, and how we distract ourselves from potentially unpleasant emotions so we never have to deal with them or feel sad.
What most stayed with me from Turkle’s talk was the idea that we have to learn to be alone in order not to be afraid of loneliness, and also how our urge to connect online (checking Facebook, sending texts etc) gets in the way of us having genuine connections in the real world. Although, as some pointed out in the discussion, technology has also made lots of relationships possible that wouldn’t have been otherwise, as anyone who’s ever had a romantic Skype date will know…
After this, Andy led a mindful listening exercise, which showed us how different it felt to be really listened to. Talking in pairs, instead of the usual Brainy Brunch groups, and allowing the other person to speak completely uninterrupted for three minutes felt very different from normal interaction. It felt great to be heard but also a bit frustrating not to be able to enter into lively debate or swap anecdotes! We also tried the exercise while the other person pretended to be on their phone. While most of us found this profoundly irritating (as you’d expect) someone in the audience said it felt surprisingly normal… which is worrying!

In the second part, Jason Silva inspired us about the beauty and wonder in the present moment with his Shots of Awe, and we learnt about mindfulness practice with Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe before experiencing a mindfulness meditation ourselves led by our own mindful Andy!

Perhaps it was partly this month’s theme, but it felt like everyone really connected in this Brainy Brunch. We’re starting together a lovely crowd of regular brunchers and there’s always new faces too, happy to share their thoughts, their brains, their bagels and their Sundays together.
If you haven’t made it to a Brainy Brunch yet, do join the newly formed Facebook group to keep updated or you can ask me ([email protected]) to join the mailing list.
The Brainy Brunch is starting
During the Brunch