Can spirituality survive in a hyper-connected society?

evolution-featured-imageWe live in a fast-paced, hyper-connected society. While modern technology definitely has its benefits, does being constantly plugged in to technology, and relying on it for almost everything, erode the space for spirituality in our lives? How do we keep spirituality alive in our hyper-connected society?

When was the last time you went a whole day without technology? No smartphone, iPad, laptop, computer, electronic music device, GPS navigation system etc?

Can’t remember? That makes two of us.

In recent years, our lives have rapidly become more technologically-oriented and more connected than ever before in known history.

This obviously has its benefits:

  • You might be reading this article on your smartphone after a friend shared the link on Facebook;
  • Human rights issues are more widely publicised and supported than ever;
  • The open-source information community is advancing human understanding in many areas and providing information on important topics not covered by the mainstream media; and
  • You might have discovered life-changing spiritual information on the internet. Without the internet, spiritual seekers of old faced far greater challenges in their search for spiritual knowledge.

But are these technological tools that can enrich our lives also being misused? Could the changes these technologies bring in our lifestyles also contribute to the erosion of spiritual values in a way we might not fully realise for another generation?

Are we creating a culture of distraction?

Never in known history have we had such capacity for distraction at our fingertips.

While losing hours to smartphone games or obsessively checking the latest status updates on Facebook probably seems harmless to most, our constant use of technology is threatening to create a culture with an epidemic lack of self-awareness.

We are in a world of content creators and consumers, and more information is currently created every two days than in the entire recorded history of the written language. It’s not surprising that if we’re not constantly connected we might feel like we’re missing out on something important. There is even a name for this type of anxiety; it’s called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and a recent study revealed that 56% of adults who use social media experience it. The irony is, by immersing ourselves in technology and distraction we are missing out on the most important thing of all – our life going on around us!

Absorption in technology and a lack of environmental awareness is becoming so chronic that traffic accidents due to driver distraction have doubled in recent times. Fights are being started as people on smartphones get in each others way.

An officer with the Seoul Metropolitan Police said, “We’ve seen a rise in reports of disputes on metro trains, and most of them started with a smartphone. People who are distracted by their smartphone are becoming a serious risk to society. (ref)

A lack of environmental awareness can be life threatening Attribution: Joe Marinara

A lack of environmental awareness can be life threatening
Attribution: Joe Marinara

It’s even got so bad that people have been known to fall off piers, walk onto train tracks or fall into shopping mall fountains because of it. And shockingly in a recent event on a crowded train in America, passengers were so zoned-out that when someone pulled out a handgun and spent time waving it around, scratching his face with it and choosing a target, no-one realised there was a gunman on the train until a shot was fired and it was already too late.

Constantly distracting ourselves from the present moment is obviously dangerous physically, but it also has devastating effects on our spiritual development.

If we are so caught up in our own little bubbles of virtual reality that we’re not even aware of what’s going on around us, how can we begin to be aware of our inner world of thoughts and emotions which are much more subtle? If we can’t be aware of what’s going on inside then we can’t begin to change and we will be at the mercy of boredom and painful inner states, which is the main reason why we’re so prone to distracting ourselves in the first place.

Without awareness of the present moment which has been understood in many spiritual cultures to be a cornerstone of self knowledge, can we even begin to develop spiritually, let alone notice the beauty and wonder of the world around us?

Hi, my name is Almost Everybody, and I’m a technology addict

Attribution: Joe Marinara

Attribution: Joe Marinara

I once knew a lady who checked her email so frequently at the major university where she worked that the IT department contacted her because she was slowing down the entire network.

Video gamers become so absorbed in computer games that they can forget to eat or sleep.

In the most extreme cases, teens and young adults were spending up to 50 hours almost non-stop playing online computer games. Psychiatrists had confirmed anecdotal evidence that some wear nappies during long sessions so they won’t have to take a toilet break – Daily Telegraph

It’s fairly common now for people to check their email or phone more than 30 – 40 times an hour and when people feel disconnected they can get withdrawal symptoms similar to drug cravings such as mental and physical distress, anxiety, panic, confusion and feelings of extreme isolation.

To top it all off, the average number of texts sent by teenagers nowadays is 3000 – 4000 a month. That’s one text approximately every 6 minutes.

Who would have guessed technology could be so addictive?

What we haven’t been told is that technology uses discoveries from infamous behavioural psychology experiments to suck you in and keep you addicted. We are hard-wired to be alert to novelty, and when our phone dings or we receive a new email our dopamine system is triggered – the same part of our brain that would light up if we were to take heroin or cocaine.

If the pleasure and rewards we get from technology were consistent and predictable we might tire of them, but if we don’t know when or from where our next reward is coming, we will keep checking back again and again. This is called “variable ratio rewards” and it is why poker machines are the most used games at the casino, and why so many people will constantly check for new emails, messages or updates. Add to this the use of technology to feed sexual desires and you have an almost inescapable source of addiction.

Addiction of any kind is harmful spiritually and can cause all sorts of problems. Addictions can cause us to act compulsively, stealing our inner peace. They are a massive drain on our psychic energy and attach us to the physical world. Addiction feeds desire, and the more we feed desire, the more our attention is drawn to it and the stronger the vicious cycle grows.

Technology addiction makes us unhappy and more subconscious

Is social media robbing us of happiness? Attribution: Eduarde Salles - Cinismo Ilustrado

Is social media making us poor in happiness? Attribution: Eduarde Salles – Cinismo Ilustrado

With media consumption expected to average 15.5 hours per day by 2015, you’d think being so connected must be making us more fulfilled and happier. Unfortunately the reality is quite different.

If you think of someone who is focussing on growing spiritually you might expect them to be developing qualities like:

  • empathy;
  • selflessness;
  • genuine happiness for the success of others; and
  • humility.

Unfortunately, being addicted to technology in a hyper-connected world instils a very different way of living.

The online world is a pretty narcissistic place, where many people compete for the most “friends” or “followers”, the best selfies, or the most “likes” on holiday pictures. In real life only about 30% – 40% of our conversations revolve around us, compared to almost 80% online. This is creating two types of phenomenon.

Firstly, we are becoming less genuine. Rather than seeing ourselves as we are and making efforts to improve, we are starting to fake our lives to create a more likeable online presence. Secondly, this leads to disappointment. If you’re living a normal life and comparing yourself to the high-flying false online personas projected by others, you’re almost certain to be disappointed in yourself.

Researchers have discovered that online usage can lead to the development of envy, depression and loneliness (which is ironic given that we are connected to more people than ever). If that wasn’t enough, it’s also been discovered that there is a limit to the amount of information we can consume, with some neuroscientists thinking we are consuming more information than we can handle. If we overload our brain beyond its limit we can trigger a fight or flight reaction causing the higher parts of our brain related to positive aspects like empathy to temporarily shut down. So too much information can actually make us more prone to acting through our subconscious impulses.

This is your brain on the Internet

This is your brain on the internet

This is your brain on the internet

Have you ever noticed that the internet functions in much the same way as a scattered mind?

If you practice meditation you’ve probably noticed that your thoughts have a tendency to jump from one thing to the next until you end up somewhere quite different from where you started. Webpages follow this same structure by linking from one resource to the next until all of a sudden you realise you’ve been on the computer for far longer than intended and you’re looking at all those funny cat pictures again.

The internet encourages a scattered mind, but we can easily multiply the effect by the way we use it.

Do you have multiple tabs open right now? Are you flicking between them, skimming bits and pieces of information from everywhere without staying focused on one thing? Do you ever use your iPad while watching the news at the same time as cooking dinner?

By splitting our attention we are actively training ourselves to be distracted and it will show in your ability to focus the next time you try to be aware or sit down to meditate.

Is it time for a digital detox?



We don’t fully understand yet what the spiritual repercussions will be for a new generation becoming more absorbed in technology than ever, but the signs are not good.

With so many easily available distractions and the capacity for instant gratification at our fingertips, will people even bother investing the time and effort required to activate their consciousness and experience spirituality deeply?

Over-reliance on smartphones and the internet may also lead to the inadequate development of our right brains and a resulting decline in memory and concentration. This is bad news for anyone who may be interested in spirituality as both memory and concentration are vital tools for inner development.

Access to such an abundance of information threatens to make us shallow and impatient as we skim read everything and navigate away from any page that isn’t loading fast enough.

The smartphone, more than any other gadget, steals from us the opportunity to maintain our attention, to engage in contemplation and reflection, or even to be alone with our thoughts – Nicholas Carr from his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Thankfully it’s not too late for those of us who would rather use technology consciously to help our inner development, rather than be controlled and consumed by it.

The next time you have nothing to do, rather than reaching for your phone or the nearest wi-fi enabled device, try taking the time to practice observing yourself and your surroundings instead.

When you do use technology, use it wisely and purposefully, focusing on one thing at a time, having the self-discipline to focus on what you need to do so you don’t get sidetracked with distractions or spend a longer time on your device than you planned. Seek and digest information that is beneficial, educational and enriches your life, rather than content that is addictive or feeds your subconscious. If you’re looking for spiritual information, try to find the most practical information available, and when you’re done, make sure you put down your device and go practice and experience it – don’t just read about it!

If enough of us value spirituality more highly than distraction, then spirituality has a chance to survive in our hyper-connected society. So before you go do something else on the Internet, share this with someone who needs it and please let me know what they think.

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About David Gardner

David has a deep interest in spiritual development, but has discovered there are many forces in the world working to keep people asleep. His recent interest has been researching the psychological tactics and techniques used to limit people's spiritual potential, writing about his discoveries here at The Conscious Reporter.


  1. I think a digital detox is definitely in order 🙂

    While technology provides many useful ways to connect to others, share spiritual information and so on, ultimately it’s just a tool with its own limitations and drawbacks. I’m thankful that internet existed when I was looking to learn about meditation and astral projection, but as you mentioned the actual practice of these things is where it’s at! No smart phone, virtual reality goggles, or whatever they come up with next can compare to having a conscious out-of-body experience, or feeling true stillness and peace from quieting the mind in meditation.

    I think transition times during the day can be a great time to do a mini digital detox, whether we’re out, at work, or even at home waiting for something else to happen. It’s very easy to reach for a smartphone/ tablet/ computer to fill the gaps between activities, but much more spiritually nourishing to just tap into the present moment and give the digital stuff a break.

    Thanks for the great article, David!

  2. richard spencer

    Thanks Dave great article ad quite timely, I have been noticing this for some time now seeing the addiction people have to there phones etc. When I pull up at the lights sometimes I like to look around and to just see how many people are looking at or on there phone usually over 50 %, also seeing my daughter and her friends and the time they spend on there phones updating photos etc. Although I am opposed to this and try and just use these devices for the minimum I can also see myself getting more sucked into this technology : ( , but have managed to stay away from facebook : )

    • I understand why it’s illegal to use your phone and drive at the same time. It’s almost impossible to have awareness on more than one thing at once – researchers have even proven that’s there’s really no such thing as multi-tasking; that when we try to do it we’re really just switching our attention quickly from one thing to another which makes us ineffective.

      There are heaps of drivers on the road nowadays using their phones while driving like you said (and not just at the lights!). Hopefully it doesn’t get worse or there are probably going to be a lot more road incidents.

      Well done for resisting the fb temptation. I’ve found it can be a good way to find and share information, but it’s so easy to lose time on there doing nothing really productive at all! I also read recently that fb were doing studies to try and influence people’s emotions through what they displayed in their newsfeed which adds a whole new dimension to the issue of addiction!

  3. Thanks David very good article. One day soon we’ll all need to move away from cities.

  4. Your examples are shocking David.

    It is so easy to get a smartphone nowadays and even easier to get addicted to it. It is this tendency to let go of any effort to be active and just submerge into oblivion that I believe also contributes to this mess.

    I can’t imagine what we will be doing in 10-20 years from now when more advanced technologies like Google Glass and chip implants are going to be widely established.

    • It will certainly be a strange world. I can imagine people walking around not really aware of their surroundings and communicating with each other through their devices rather than in real life.

  5. The dark side of NLP.
    This is a very interesting video and reminds me of severe trauma based conditioning/hypnosis/mind control. The little revealed in the past decades seems to have been severely suppressed. Now it seems NLP has been adopted (maybe was created from?) those involved in the dark side of ‘human resources’ and child rearing. This is an appalling infringement of free will and liberty, and is designed to create nothing more than controllable human machines, programmed for evil.
    Can spirituality and consciousness still survive when it is being so severely attacked and damaged from birth?

    • NLP is incredibly powerful; that video you posted is shocking. The people behind some of these groups must really hate people.

      • The methods discussed in that video remind me a lot of the doublespeak in 1984. I really hope we don’t end up in that world..

  6. Interesting points, David, about how people have the tendency to portray an image of happiness or success to others. It seems that the mentality of one-up-manship is pretty prevalent as well- for example, (on Facebook) a need to prove that you had the “best experience ever” doing something when in reality it was quite arbitrary but the right kind of photos were used to glamorize it. There seems to be a bit of self-deception which could make the person actually feel unfulfilled with their life… I’m sure that’s confusing as well.

    I found it really funny that FOMO exists. How absurd that the depth of conditioning completely bypasses people today. Pretty sad, too. The research on how certain hormones are triggered by a ‘reward’ that are comparable to the effects of heroin or other drugs was insightful and also intimidating that we’re so vulnerable. Thanks for such a concise article.

    • Thanks for the comment Zorana. After writing this I came across an article titled ‘A New App Called Moment Shows You How Addicted You Are To Your Iphone’.

      It has a couple of videos in it which are quite spot on (and kind of sad) showing the affect of technology, one particularly in relation to the self deception you talked about.

      We are certainly vulnerable, and there are many instances of us being studied to see what will have the greatest impact.

      • That second video is right along with what I meant. Both of them were sad to watch. Apart from the Moment app being able to track where you’ve been all day (as a testament to …what? How unaware humanity is that a person can’t even remember where they’ve been throughout one single day?), which I find off-putting and creepy, the overall intentions of the app are pretty useful. At least it’s a step towards a bit of self-observation 🙂

        Thanks for the link, David.

  7. This is a really great article David, it holds up a mirror to see ourselves in this illusionary virtual world. I think its great you’ve prompted us with so many important questions because most of the web can be about indulgences of all kinds.

    I think one of the worst thing it brings about is the pre-occupation with ourselves in a superficial way as you’ve highlighted. Which tends to send people into a negative spiral of pain and pleasure as we clash with the realities of life only to run and hide behind a false sense of self, constantly feeding ourselves with ‘wants’ we can’t have, afford or whatever, which can be the cause of lots of inner frustration.

    Thanks very much, the articles given me a lot help to reflect on my own online use and highlighted aspects that I’ve been missing in my day.

  8. A man once showed me an online game and the timer indicated he’d played for well over 3 months in the past year. Later his friends were bragging that they’d played the same game for up to 17 hours the previous day and were quite proud of there efforts. Some people will now tell you that an online game is their preferred ‘sport’.

    Computer games really have come a long way since Pong.

    • That’s quite amazing Martin, I can’t imagine that much ‘sport’ is good for your health let alone your consciousness!

  9. Interesting timing! I’ve been listening to a book called ‘The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains’ which goes into great detail about the damage of technology addiction. Quite eye opening!

    Thanks for your insights as well David!

  10. That’s a great article with a lot of useful research David, thank you. Just what I needed to read!

    When I go on a holiday in nature away from electronic devices for a week, it feels so refreshing. Suddenly I have time to sit and relax, to observe and enjoy nature around me. I feel more wholesome, it feels like the pace of my life slows down and my mind can be a bit at rest. In the beginning though it does feel restless too because there’s no distraction or information available, but by the time I come back I have no desire for facebook (until it gradually sucks me back in usually).

    I haven’t got a smartphone, and I doubt I will ever do. I know what it would do to my mind, which is already tempted to absorb information at the fastest speed possible by flipping through different websites just like you said, and it’s difficult to even finish one article with care. This flipping makes me feel dizzy and fragmented. Taking the bait of constant distraction makes me feel tired and sick.

    I think you’re spot on on that it’s now more possible than ever to escape our inner pain any time to more or less useful content. I get the feeling people don’t have the patience anymore to wait and sit and just observe, the instant gratification as you say is too tempting. But one only has to take an honest look at it and decide which is more important, what you really want to do with your time, and who is going to be in control of your life, the content creators or you.

    Another thing to consider is what the vibration and frequencies of electronic devices are doing to our body and health. I seriously doubt it is healthy to spend 24/7 next to your 4G phone, immersed in wi fi frequencies of not only your own device, but of other flats’ too (when you live in a high rise building). Not to even mention large office buildings. Sometimes the electricity goes out at our house, and it is such a relief.

    • That’s a good point about the effect of technology on our health through the different frequencies we’re exposed to Laura – it can’t be good for us!

      I know that feeling you mentioned about feeling a bit dizzy / fragmented / tired / sick. Tells me I’ve definitely been using the computer for too long and without enough awareness!

    • I experienced that too a couple months ago when I was away from computers and wifi for a week, somehow the atmosphere was lighter, and it was easier to be aware.

      Recently I’ve come across the topic of orgone and orgonite. I’m still learning about it but basically it ties in with the idea that all the electro-magnetic fields and low frequencies flying around have a negative effect on us.

      • Some time ago I saw in a poignant way the effect of the city frequencies on my health.

        We spent a long weekend camping in the remote mountains, which are said to have high spiritual energies, in fact we were at a powerful ancient sacred site. We slept in the car and were moderately physically active. In the normal course of things this would tire me out and I would expect to be uncomfortable physically. However during that time I hardly felt the normal physical inconveniencies and illnesses I’m accustomed to. When we returned to the city my health condition returned back to the weak state in front of my eyes, so to say.

        Perhaps it was the high energies, or the fact that we went to bed and woke up with the sun, or the lack of power lines, pollution, chemtrails, wifi and all the rest, or all of that, which made the difference.

        • Have you guys come across any ways to reduce / cancel the negative effects of wifi, EMFs, dirty electricity etc.?

          I have used earthing / grounding equipment as it is supposed to help naturally relieve problems related to the above. It has a lot of health benefits; I know I feel a lot better when I’m walking barefoot outside, and I have a small earthing mat which I have used while sleeping and using the computer.

          I have also heard of other devices used to lessen the effects of EMF, but don’t know about them in detail, so if you guys have any info that would be great!

          • I remember reading something where a wise man was asked how to combat the radioactivity we got from polluted food. He said it was best to focus on building golden bodies as they are unaffected by this pollution.
            I expect it’s the same with wifi/EMF’s and other types of pollution.
            if only i had the ears to hear…..

          • I’m also interested in hearing what worked for people (or what didn’t).

          • I have also heard about grounding ‘protecting’ a person from EMF’s David, and I do experience benefits walking barefoot (it gives me physical strength, balances internal energies, quietens pain). I’m not sure if it’s related to the effects of wifi, but I do feel that electricity creates tension and disharmony in my body, as well as fatigue. I’ve ordered an earthing sheet and am looking forward to seeing if it will make a difference. If you can find shoes with leather soles, they are supposed to help with grounding because the rubber soles insulate us from the earth. I can see a subtle difference wearing leather soles, but in the city I guess they wouldn’t do much if you were standing close to powerlines and cellphone towers etc.

          • Hi David, I’ve come across many different ways to stop the negative effects of wifi, EMFs, dirty electricity etc. Although, it can be hard to really know whether everything works especially since people are cashing in with complete rubbish.
            There is a paint which can be used inside and/or behind the main electricital box. When wiring a home you can twist electrical cables and run them inside metal pipes.
            A router, mobile phones. cordless phones, electric clocks etc. should be as far as possible from your head especially while sleeping. At night we switch everything off at the power point.

            As you’ve mentioned We also find earthing to be great.

  11. Spot on article. I was addicted for years to computer games, although I swear I never wore a nappy to play longer…

    These days I don’t get lost in those time-wasting games, but it’s so easy to follow a trail of distracting web links and end up with the “funny cat pictures” again and again.

    Digital detox? Yes please!

    • I’ve definitely been guilty of wasting too many hours following links on webpages. Sometimes I even know I’m just wasting time I’m never going to get back but it can be so hard to pull away if you give in to compulsion!

      Glad to hear you’re not addicted anymore! 🙂

  12. Great article Dave, thoroughly enjoyed that, and yes ‘I want more like this’ so sign me up and help me become addicted to your newsletters 😉
    I have recently started using public transport regularly and it is amazing to see the recurring behavior. I used to scold at it, now I am part of it, but I only read intelligent stuff on my mobile, so I’m ok 😉
    It is a great time saver, but as you mention can be a great time waster.
    For a while I found myself feeling very irritated and angry on the train, all whilst I was reading intelligent stuff on my mobile. After putting the mobile away, I quickly realized my annoyance was at the ‘deception’ of the train broadcasts. In the background I was thinking tax payers have been deceived for decades paying for infrastructure that by now should be perfect, and we should not have to purchase any tickets to travel on transport that we and our predecessors have already paid for tenfold, and that ‘WE’ own. The sound broadcasts say things like ‘customers’, ‘thank you for choosing city rail’, ‘surveillance cameras continually monitor the interior and exterior of this train’ (watching you all watching your mobiles), etc. Then when its time to leave you are told to take your rubbish with you to help keep YOUR train clean. Oh, so its my train when the private company doesn’t want to employ cleaners, nor pay for garbage bins inside the train, nor on the platforms? Anyhows after ‘giving up’ my frustration, I thought to myself, you know, you could say almost anything to this carriage of people and they wouldn’t even blink. Imagine the power of broadcasting subliminal messages along with those already mentioned plus the ones telling you which station you are approaching etc. Scary stuff really. Orwells telescreens are already in the train, and those who look up from their mobiles will immediately be suspected of thoughtcrime.

    • I wonder how many other people feel that kind of annoyance you mentioned (for similar or different reasons) and just distract themselves from it too rather than trying to understand it.

      It’s a pretty strange world where some level of environmental awareness makes you part of the minority! But as you say good for those who want to level some kind of control over everyone.

      As you say I wonder where technology will take us in the future as it becomes more all-consuming.

    • Readying us all for outright slavery Shane; or are we already slaves?

      Maybe previous taxpayers didn’t keep up the interest repayments on the train debt. Who are we indebted to again?

      • Don’t you remember Martin? It used to be 10% fractional reserve ‘real’ money, now it’s generally less than 2%, real money. Hmm, so that means we owe all our life’s physical labor to a computer holding us to ransom with its electric zeros and ones. We have consented to a deceitful computer manipulating and ruining our lives. Sounds a bit silly really… No wonder the banksters find us so funny.
        Its almost as funny as having your birth certificate floated on the stock exchange from the day you were born…

  13. That’s a really insightful article David, and a major issue we all face in our daily lives — how to use technology in a beneficial way, and not allow it to control our lives.

    Technology is such a double edged sword, and it really comes down to how you use it. I’ve been able to find really amazing spiritual information thanks to the internet. At the same time, I know how addictive technology can be. I was once addicted to an on-line multi-player computer game, and I used to see imagery from the game in my dreams. It can be so absorbing and take such a hold on your psychology.

    I had the benefit of growing up in the pre-internet era, so I was able to spend childhood in a simpler world, and I understood what was ‘normal’ and could get away from the addiction more easily because of that I think.

    But times are changing. I was amazed to read that more information is currently created every two days than in the entire recorded history of the written language. It really is mind boggling. And today with babies being entertained with IPads in prams, and kids taking tablets and smartphones with them to school, I wonder what it will be like for the next generation. With new inventions like Google Glass and even implants potentially on the way, it could be much harder in the future for people to avoid being so absorbed in technology and cyberspace that their consciousness has little chance to develop.

    • Interesting what you said about the images from the game appearing in your dreams Matthew! I have gone through varying levels of computer / phone / technology addiction in the past too. I wouldn’t be surprised if almost everyone is or has been addicted to them in varying measures. But like you technology and the internet has also helped me in so many ways and I think the world is a much better place because of it. It’s just unfortunate that we are generally prone to addiction, and that people creating programs and technology use this to their advantage to create and sell products.

      I think the masses of available information also contributes to the problem because if we’re looking for something to do we can so easily go back to that article we saw the other day but didn’t have time to read etc. It’s so easy to fill our time now that space for contemplation, meditation and other spiritual pursuits could easily get pushed out. It also means that as more and more information is created it will be harder to sift through all the mediocre content to find the true gems.

      I feel that wearable and implantable technology and the development of Oculus Rift and other virtual reality products could lead to a very sad future – one where we interact through devices rather than each other and live in our own little virtual world. This is already happening to a degree but the potentially damaging effect on consciousness for people brought up thinking this is the normal way to live is huge.

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