Connected people are better. Sure, it is nice to have a friend who can get access to hot concert tickets before they go on sale. And it can be good to know someone with a strong Rolodex, maybe we now say contact database, when it is time to get a private telephone number of someone who is particularly difficult to reach. But the best kind of connected people are basically those who link with others not in a particularly spectacular or leveraged way but in genuine interest and mutual friendship.
They may not be two degrees away from the pope or the president. Yet, they take an interest in our lives. They know that we’ve had a bit of a cold lately. They know that we like chocolate ice cream but not strawberry. And they answer the phone whenever we call. They care. They have “connected” their lives to ours. They invest in the petty nuances that make each of us unique. Even the best among us only has so much of this quality to go around, so we have to watch its distribution. We keep jealous guard over what we share and what we ask, knowing that time is perhaps the most finite of all resources.
These attachments seem minor, even inconsequential, until crisis, or change, or life, brings into focus the isolation that confronts us in the world alone. Families often matter little, until they are gone. Friends may have little use, until we find ourselves celebrating life alone. Colleagues and intellectual mates are superfluous, until we discover our ideas unchallenged and grown unkempt.
Isn’t it these connections that hold us together rather than hold us back? In an age of such polarization, tribalism and name-calling, our impulse is to disconnect. It’s understandable, but at what cost?