Tethered is a word that describes the linking of one device – such as a smartphone or a computer – to another so that they may share an access point to a network, be it a wireless network, a hard-wired network, or even a phone network.
This allows the previously non-networked device to enjoy access to all that the network grants using the connected device as a hub. It’s a simplified explanation of what constitutes the World Wide Web in the most basic terms. It is also true of the radio, television, and telephone networks of the past (my grandmother, a dauntless woman of the Great Depression, once confessed to me that the telephone scared her to death when it first came into prominence, at the time it was Voodoo of the highest order. Social networks consisted of gossiping over the back-yard fence in those days, and ‘The Grapevine’ was a potent tool).
After a period of time, the longer devices are connected to other devices, the more that they exchange information and contribute to the data pool, the more pronounced become the benefits of being tethered. Information is passed freely among them and is accessible to any other devices that have a point of access, creating a resource that is vast in its scope. There is no denying the power of a collective.
Tethered is also a term that describes the restriction of movement of one object that is tied to another, either literally or philosophically. Objects that are tethered in this manner eventually become entangled in a closed-feedback-loop, and though access to the information within the collective is free to any that are a part of the chain, no information originating outside of its points of access will be able to enter the stream. This eventually leads to entropy and the decay of the system itself – nothing can be recycled indefinitely, at some point everything must evolve or cease to exist.
In the modern world, we walk the line between these two extremes. Unfettered by the self-imposed, collective isolation of a closed-feedback-loop, connection can enrich our lives and broaden our horizons in ways we never imagined as we realize there’s truly no separation between us. Alternately, when we base our connection on false premises, prejudice, and alienation, it can take us over the edge of a cliff, one after another.
Each of us gets to decide which of these bonds we are creating, and whether our contributions are an invitation to expand or to explode.