Is It Time To Unplug Your Love Life?


There's a downside to connecting through a computer.

The intersection of dating and technology is an inevitable topic for single adults in therapy. Whether discussing questions about the choice to pursue online dating, or how Facebook, Instagram and texting shape the modern relationship landscape, technology has a profound influence over the process of seeking romance and connection.

Directed by Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (released on DVD in April 2014), paints a compelling picture of the extent to which the internet revolution can seduce us into a screen and away from a life. As the film opens, Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) and his colleagues learn they must navigate the transition of their employer, LIFE magazine, from print to digital and come to terms with the likely loss of many, if not all, of their jobs. Digital's usurping of print media functions as the film's backdrop and its metaphor for how the computerization of so many aspects of life may be efficient, amazing and inevitable. Yet, it is also connected (pun intended) to how easily a screen can seduce and usurp other more vibrant and authentic pursuits.

As Walter obsesses over how to connect with his co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) on eHarmony, he forms a telephone relationship with an eHarmony technician, Todd (Patton Oswalt), who urges Walter to spice up his profile. Walter insists he has little or nothing to add to his many fill-in-the-blanks that have been left unanswered. Through dramatic daydreaming and difficult self-reflection, Walter realizes how far he has strayed from the passionate skateboarding teen he used to be and from the adventurous life he longs to live. 

What this film does so well is demonstrate that most adversity — in this case, the likelihood of job loss — is an excellent opportunity for growth.  It is interesting how many people seek therapy when they are assigned a new supervisor or boss and their place of employment enters a state of flux.  Professional re-structuring often triggers significant anxiety, but those who are able to locate growth opportunities in the face of professional transition can often evolve and thrive. Walter's dramatic adventure in pursuit of the lost negative meant to become LIFE magazine's final cover amuses and inspires while demonstrating how much color, contrast and magic exists for those who will turn off their computers and embrace a non-internet connected experience. 

During his adventures, the film's iconic photographer, Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn), waits hours to capture the perfect off-the-grid wildlife image, and his final shot is so magical he calmly decides to enjoy the moment rather than take the photograph. This calm and collected choice to live in the moment rather than through the screen is the essential message of this inspiring film. Sometimes electronic disconnection is necessary for an authentic connection. If you are single and having a hard time figuring out how to online date, this provocative and entertaining story could be the inspiration you need.

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This article was originally published at DC Counseling & Psychotherapy Center . Reprinted with permission from the author.