I type those words as I'm sitting downstairs, staring at my mini laptop screen, and D is sitting upstairs in his computer chair, staring at another screen, toggling between Facebook and websites reviewing movies and games that are Coming Soon. I assume he has his cell phone in his pocket. Mine is somewhere upstairs, because I've made a (good? bad?) habit of not always keeping my phone on me. Because on my phone, there's Facebook and Twitter and texting and the web and oh, yeah, also people can call me on it.
I'm worried because I think all this technology, and particularly social media, makes it a little too easy to be anti-social. Although ostensibly all of these platforms make us more connected, they also make it all too convenient to have indirect interactions rather than genuinely connected conversations.
Call you for your birthday? Why? I wrote on your Wall.
Ask you what's new? How arbitrary. I've been keeping up with your Tweets. I'm up to date every 5 minutes.
Good conversation at the dinner table? Okay. But if it runs dry for a minute, we all know the phones will come out and we'll all stare at our own small screens. Or at the very list, flinch and check them each time we feel a buzz in our pockets.
I fully admit I'm guilty as I'm charging. I also know all the benefits of social media and technology (but that's not the case I'm making today, so let's just leave it at "there's plenty of good stuff there, too" - I know). But I'm getting increasingly frustrated. It's become too much. The addiction to being constantly plugged in is starting to make me itch. When someone is "listening" to me while also playing Words with Friends or scrolling through Faceook on the phone, I want to grab the phone and throw it through the window. The cost of replacing phones deters me from doing that, but the inclination is there.
I'm pretty sure it's an addiction. I mean, look at these three clear signs of dependence:
- The classic assertion: "I can give it up anytime, I just don't want to"
- Withdrawal symptoms: that sense of panic at the thought of being unreachable for any amount of time; confusion as how anyone could think it would be better to go off(line)
- The justification: "But now I'm more in touch than I used to be ... this is helping me"
Look at us. We are technology junkies.
Complaining about a problem without offering any solution is another pet peeve of mine. So while I have no universal solution to this concern, I do have some actions I am willing to take. I hereby pledge:
- To turn my phone off - all the way off - in social situations. I don't yet have kids or any reason I have to be constantly reachable. We didn't have cell phones when I was a kid. Almost any news can wait the length of a meal.
- To take a week off my personal Facebook, every few months. Just to prove I can. (I can't say "go all the way off Facebook" because I manage several accounts to help pay the bills. Also, I'd say I'd abandon Twitter for a week at a time ... but I abandon it for months at a time, constantly. Same with LinkedIn. I'm actually much better at managing organizations' media than my own.)
- To finish writing the trilogy I'm working on, which is largely about the danger of technology outpacing humanity. It's fictional. (For now.)
- To at least be aware of irony. Like writing this post as a blog, which I will then share via social media.
- And, along the lines of #4, to not completely disengage ...
... because we can only make change from the inside, right?
There has been a lot of heartbreak and tough news in this past week, most of which I can't write about just yet, so instead, I'm ranting about an unrelated issue. But the truth is, at this point, just about nothing is unrelated to social media. Half the tragic news I got this week, I first learned about on Facebook. Hence, maybe take my anger at the phenomenon with a little grain of salt. In a week where I wanted to give more immediate hugs instead of comments, I'm feeling a bit hollow about the whole thing.
Thus ends my rant. Time to drag D away from his screen and get some fresh air.