It seems more and more to me, as I watch myself and others, that the source of our endless checking of email, Facebook, twitter and all is that we’re secretly hoping to be saved.
Seeing this first requires admitting how lost many of us feel so much of the time. There really is very little solidity to stand on in the world. Everything changes so fast. We have to navigate through boundless complexity, of which we understand only a fragment. And everything we know and care for can be taken away in an instant.
So there’s a part of us that is longing for the moment when someone bigger and more solid than us will show up to show us the way, to tell us that everything is going to be ok, to soften and soothe our racing thoughts and secretly pounding, anguished hearts. And wishing for this is not so surprising or unusual: anyone who had caring adults around them when they were small will have visceral memories of just this happening when the world got too big for them.
Perhaps that’s the secret promise we’re holding out for in our email and social media – that in among all the updates will be the message from beyond which will at last, conclusively, set the world straight again, and release us from our fear.
So we check, soothed momentarily by our hopefulness. But the message we longed for is not there. We check again, and again. Each time, for a few seconds, the anxiety abates. And we get addicted to this fragmentary feeling of safety.
Weaning us off our addiction requires each of us to let go of the saviour myth and, ultimately, let go of needing to feel safe all the time.
Then we can face the weird and incomprehensible world in its fullness, and feel it all without the need for a glowing prop to see us through.