The cult of the connected

The cult of the connected Loading

I know there is a lot of noise (yes, NOISE. Not buzz, and certainly not chatter) around this whole business of work-life balance. And everyone including his mother and aunt advise that the key element in this whole work-life balance business is going off the network.

I was at a panel discussion a couple of years ago on this same blighted theme and one of the corporate divas made a big case for how she switches off her blackberry when she gets home. I was tempted to ask her: do you switch off home when you get to your office? But as a fellow panelist, I was expected to be on my Sunday-best behaviour, so I behaved.

I have heard page 3, 4, 5 and other endless and inconsequential page people extoll the virtues of taking a holiday in a place where there is no network, both phone and data. How it helped them commune with nature. How it helped them discover themselves. My reaction: what a load of baloney!!!

When and why did ‘network’ become a villain of our lives? As long as the on-off button is in your control, why blame ‘network’ for being the intruder in however you want to commune with nature or whatever earth-shattering things you want to discover about yourself?

I too consume huge volumes of media on a mind-boggling variety of subjects in my everyday urban setting. I too am of those elite addicts who reaches out first for my phone (and not for my partner) the moment I open my eyes (after every shut-eye, not necessarily only after the good night sleep). I do it because I like it. I like it because it makes me more aware, more informed, and certainly more interesting.

You want me to give up being interesting on my hike to Valley of Flowers? Or to Macchu Picchu? Or on my climb to Kilimanjaro? For what joy? You feel the mountains will be threatened by my evolved self? Or are you certain the mountains will accept me only if I am shorn off the internet? Where and where please is the logic in saying that a great holiday is one where I have no internet and therefore device-less???

I, on the other hand, have found that since the mountains and I are continuously engaged in an animated dialogue, I want to be able to broadcast that -piecemeal or whole- to people in my life. I want to be able to say – real time, mind you and not after I return from my holiday –

You know what guys, the entire trek was up and up and up. Usually, when you are trekking long distance on mountains, particularly in the Himalayan range, if you climb up some, you go down the slope next, and it is a continuous see-saw till you summit. Or whatever your end point is. Not this one. Not this time. See how breathless I am? Can you see in this picture my flared nostrils? Can you see the high color in my cheeks?

It’s a scree slope guys. For the first time, I understood the value of good hiking boots. It doesn’t matter what crappy shoes you wear climbing up. But when you are coming down, shoes make all the difference. While going up, the only hit you take is to your lungs. But downward, your toes take the mother of all beatings. So do your knees. Your calf. Your hamstring. Your tailbone. Buy these shoes (send pic) guys, see how they stop my toes from curling!

Like I said, I want to be able to say all this as it unfolds. I want to share the melodrama, the imagined and real excitement, the wide-eyed wonder, even as it all happens. Not after I return home simply because I had no network.

Because by then it is all so prosaic. The magic is gone. The words become insipid. The pictures shame themselves into non-description. My whole story-board becomes apologetic and tentative.

Can you think of a more Herculean tragedy than this?

Like leadership, going off the network is over-glorified. I’m starting a movement on staying connected. Bravehearts, anyone?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nandini Vaidyanathan is the founder of Carma Connect (www.CarmaConnect.in) which mentors entrepreneurs, teaches entrepreneurship in ivy league business schools across the world, writes on entrepreneurship (has written two best sellers), climbs and treks. She loves to live life on her terms, using her discretion and not someone else’s.

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