With the birth of the Internet, a new renaissance arrived, one we hoped that would usher in greater connection and oneness. Since then, it’s become clear that the Internet, while marvelous at alerting us to the latest capsule collection or other must-have-now good, has not lived up to its idealized expectations. Sure, we can’t discount the wonders of connecting with loved ones through space and time, but let’s be honest, algorithm-driven apps still get more face time.
In an ideal world, the Internet would have created a space to integrate ideas, cultures, and ways of being—particularly, our ways of being. Integrate, a verb that means the combining of one thing with another to become greater than the whole, shares its root ‘integer’—meaning intact or whole—with the word integrity. So to integrate, we must come together with a wholeness of being that includes our character or the essence of who we are and our physical bodies, not our online avatars.
Can we still integrate into a world that prioritizes the online experience?
We haven't stopped. In churches around the world, a portion of weekly services are devoted to shaking hands with pew neighbors. A secular equivalent is what we do every day when we arrive at work, play dates, or other group meetups, and greet people one-by-one. But we need to do it more.
Making tangible connections is the first step to becoming a part of the whole. It’s choosing coffee with a friend over an idle hour mindlessly scrolling online. It’s making eye contact with people we stroll by rather than glancing down at our phones. Memes are great, but once read do we ever look at them again? Conversations are the building blocks of integration.
As we engage more deeply within our communities, our purpose—what we choose to do and why we do it—crystalizes because we have the support of the whole. Our willingness to positively contribute to our society increases, too. Work becomes effortless because we share it with people who understand who we are and who we are becoming.
A decade ago, I produced a documentary film on a community radio show. I interviewed several of the long-standing performers and directors curious to understand what kept them returning to work on a show that paid nothing and demanded exhausting days of production.
“It’s about being a part of something bigger than you are,” one director shared.
This is what it means to integrate.