Tiffany Shlain on being "Connected"
(CBS) - The very idea of being wired to your gadgets and online 24/7 is so that you won't miss anything. But consider, being super-wired, all the time, means you might be missing something even more significant: life.
Depicted in her documentary "Connected," Tiffany Shlain, acclaimed filmmaker and founder of The Webby Awards, wonders, "How much faster can it go until we can't keep up?" Though Shlain understands all of the wonderful things technology has brought us, she also realizes the downsides. "Turning off technology is just as powerful as turning it on and that as a society we need that," she explains. "I hate that people have forgotten how to be present."
When Shlain set out to make "Connected," the original tagline was "A Declaration of Interdependence." She had planned to create an insightful, funny and provocative film that looks at what it means to be connected in the 21st century by exploring the history of interdependence and how it has changed over time. "That was my pitch, that was our focus, that's the film I thought I was going to make," she explains.
The film took a different turn during a time when Shlain was going through an incredibly emotional year that had forced her to think about being "connected" on a much more personal level. "My father, who was a co-writer on the film and someone with whom I was incredibly close, was diagnosed with brain cancer and was given nine months to live. And a few days later, I found out I was pregnant. Life and death were connected right in front of me so inextricably," she points out. "It was during that time that I realized I was making a film about 'connections.'"
Shlain then wove her own story into the film, which has now been aptly titled, "Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology."
We caught up with Shlain - or rather, "connected" with her - to find out what inspired her to make the film...
YU: Aside from the word "connected," describe the film in 5 words.
TS: Think, laugh, cry, feel and expand.
YU: What did you want to accomplish by making this film?
TS: Our goal is to trigger a global conversation about what it means to be "connected" in the 21st century. Both personally and globally... We also have a discussion kit that goes with the film with conversation cards, a book and curriculum. Everyone is moving so quickly and so busy. We think now is the perfect time to take a moment and talk about what all this "connectedness" means in people's lives - the good, the bad and the potential.
YU: What do you think it means to be "connected"?
TS: That word is so big and all encompassing which is why I love it. On the one hand you could say that you are connected to the people you love; and your friends, your community and the world. You can also talk about it biologically or environmentally, which of course has been true since the beginning of time. Today, we can also look at how we have evolved to create a new layer of connectedness on top of all the original networks that is technology which has really created a central nervous system for humans to communicate.
YU: What's so great about being connected?
TS: First, let me tell you what I love. I love every thought I have can be expanded online through links. I love that [for] every idea I have, I can act on immediately... I love how I can be connected to people and ideas that I never would have been connected to before. It used to be that cities were the best places to bring people closer together and now we have this global framework that brings people together. I love the fact of 7 billion minds on the planet [are] all being connected and that I can be connected with so many more people I love. The potential of technology globally and personally is exponential.
YU: What's not so great about being connected?
TS: Now, I will tell you what I hate. Since the beginning of time, you can give examples of new technologies that always had good and bad repercussions. In one of his books my father said, "Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse." The film discusses the potential of these new technologies and the importance of harnessing that power, but it also covers the ramifications of these new technologies taking over our personal time. I hate how technology can be so enticing and addictive, and I personally need to create a boundary one day a week without being connected to remember how important it is to be alone with your thoughts and truly present with the people you love. I've started doing technology Shabbats with my family every Friday and I am learning that turning off technology is just as powerful as turning it on and that as a society we need that.
YU: How do you stay connected?
TS: I am completely plugged in. My extended mind right in my hand [are] my cell phone and my MacAir. The extension of my thoughts [are] Twitter, Facebook and cameras to document the small and big things that happen. I heard a quote that has really resonated for me. Don't miss the little things, because in the end you realize the little things were the big things. So on that note, that is also why I unplug from all that I listed above for 24 hours each week.
For more information on "Connected" or to catch the film at a theater near you, visit www.facebook.com/connectedthefilm.
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