Disconnecting and reconnecting

Disconnecting and reconnecting

The less connected you make yourself, the more meaningful connections you can develop. Dr Long shares his New Year resolutions for 2018.


Welcome to 2018! For many of us the New Year is a time to reflect, take stock, and resolve to make positive changes to our lives. I want to share two of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018, which may seem to contradict each other, but are in fact two sides of the same coin – to disconnect and to reconnect.

Cut out the noise

The first relates to cutting out the noise of constant communication that’s become so prevalent in modern life. It’s about disconnecting from the tech, from the buzz of everyday messaging and media at our fingertips. This resolution is in part inspired by a fascinating book I read last year, Adam Alter’s ‘Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology’.

Alter is a social psychologist and professor at the Stern School of Business in New York. His catalyst for writing the book was hearing about a school in the Bay Area of San Francisco which bans just about all technology — and that 75 per cent of the parents are executives in the technology industry including the chief technology officer of eBay and employees of Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

So, what do these parents know that makes them cautious about technology?  Adam Alter’s conclusion is clear – many of us — young people and adults alike — risk becoming, literally, addicted to technology.

Hooked on technology?

What is now clear is that the smartphone and the laptop can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain – particularly when games and social media are used. This is a chemical which produces short-term pleasure. But that’s not the full story – we build tolerance to dopamine and need increasing doses to maintain the same pleasure levels. In other words, as Adam Alter claims, humans have a biological predisposition to getting hooked on technology.

His remedy reflects some of the steps we’re already taking at Woodstock. They include being more aware of how technology invades our lives, ensuring there are times of the day when its inaccessible, spending time in natural environments and making sure there are plenty of opportunities for good old-fashioned conversations.

Personally, I will be trying to be more conscious of my use of modern technology and the constantly-on communication which accompanies it. That doesn’t mean throwing away my smartphone, but being mindful that it can be either a useful addition to our lives or a burden, depending on whether we’re using it or it’s using us.

Making meaningful connections

Which leads me to my second resolution, which is to reconnect with the connections that really matter, the meaningful connections if you like. I’m a strong believer that while there’s an important place for social media and other modern communications, real change happens one on one, one by one and in partnerships.

The connections I resolve to make this year paradoxically can mean that less connection will make me more connected, not just with the background buzz, but building relationships that can change someone’s life (and I hope mine for the better too).

For me this means using the new-found time gained by putting aside the smartphone or resisting the urge to browse Facebook to reconnecting on the personal level. It might be as simple as calling an old friend or making time to lend my experience to someone who can benefit from it.

Alumni connect

One resolution I would ask Woodstock’s worldwide community to consider is making a meaningful connection with your fellow alumni.

Collectively you have an incredible wealth of expertise in a diverse range of areas. Woodstock alumni have made a positive impact on the world in ways too numerous to mention. Alongside this there are alumni at all stages of their careers and development who could benefit from tapping into this collective knowledge. In particular, we have some wonderfully talented younger alumni for whom mentoring and guidance from their more experienced counterparts could make a huge difference to their lives, potentially for years to come.

Whether you’re looking to connect professionally, or just keep in touch with the wider community, Woodstock Alumni Connect is the perfect platform for developing meaningful relationships with fellow Woodstockers. Launched last year, it is already proving to be very popular within the community, with nearly 1,000 of you signed up in six months.

A key part of it is building connections between alumni, and you can request or bequest help as and when you’re ready to do so. It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment, and you can set the time and level of support you’re able to give at this stage. With news and events for alumni, it’s worth signing up to, even if at the present time you can’t offer support or don’t need it – although who couldn’t do with a little help from time to time! The more of you who sign up, the more powerful a tool Woodstock Alumni Connect will be for making meaningful connections. There’s power in numbers, so make it one of your resolutions this New Year to join us in creating a community that becomes a truly powerful force for positive change.

Dr Jonathan Long, Principal, Woodstock School


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