Connecting in a Digital World

Connecting in a Digital World

The hiking crew on the Chirico Trail with Mount Rainier in the distance.

Last year I experienced the potential of technology (used in an intentional manner) to foster meaningful connections between people.

At the time I had just become a member of an online group called Washington Hikers and Climbers. It is a place where people from throughout the state share pictures and stories from their recent outdoor adventures. Then it had only 12,000 members and counting, the page (like all corners of the internet) draws a wide variety of internet denizens, and is a place where people who love exploring outside get to share snippets of their experiences with others who have similar interests and passions. Now, it is over 40,000.

On a whim, I joined four other members of this group for a short hike to Poo Poo Point near Issaquah (3.6 miles round trip, decent elevation gain and a great workout if you go fast up the hill!). While I have done this hike many times, sharing it with four new individuals was a lovely experience. In this case, the technology of our internet group brought us together to revel in the joy of a crisp fall hike, to share different ideas and perspectives, and to enjoy the outdoors in fun company. I was amazed and grateful at the welcoming reception from people I had for the most part never met.

Pin from WH&C

Technology, in all its various forms, is a defining attribute of my daily life. From a digitally distributed work schedule to the phone in my hand, it enables an unprecedented level of attachment to the various strands of my life. I use the word “attachment” (rather than connection) in this case because these invisible technological webs sometimes draw me out of the present moment, away from the natural world, and farther from the living breathing people that surround me. This is not to say that I wish we lived in the middle ages without any computers or modern medicine or cell phones. Instead, I hope to not only increase our awareness of how technology has changed our relationships to self, others, and the environment, but also highlight ways it can be used to enhance rather than degrade our connections to the living wo
rld around us. Yesterday was an example of how technology can create these connections, and I am encouraged and inspired to continue exploring the digMaple trees on Chirico Trailital and natural worlds I am lucky to explore.

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