The cover illustration of this week’s issue of The New Yorker (“Capturing the Memories” by Mark Ulriksen), is particularly appropriate for this time of year. It shows a family on vacation in a beautiful tropical setting, all decked out in the usual sunglasses, Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, and sandals. They are all looking down at their iPhones and Blackberries, probably tweeting, posting, or texting about their experience. In the foreground, you see the shadow of someone taking a picture of them with a cellphone (and he’s the only one actually enjoying the scenic view).
Now that I am using social media more, both for business and pleasure, this image got me to thinking about how using social media affects our actual experience of our surroundings. Today’s smartphone makes it so easy to share what we’re doing with others. But while doing so, are we somehow missing out what’s going on in the here and now?
At a recent outdoor concert, I was having such a great time that I felt compelled to take a picture and post it on Facebook. I wanted other people to know what they were missing. But then as I took the time to upload the photo, I realized I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on and missed some of the actual performance.
I’m sure I’m not the first to have observed this, and so I checked online to see what other people were writing about this phenomenon. And not surprisingly, I found a number of articles on similar topics. One I particularly liked was on Adam Boettiger’s blog called “Digital Minimalism.” That’s a bit of an oxymoron, but the concept of his blog is to “offer strategies and tactics to achieve balance, to live life fully in an age of digital overload, interruptions, and distraction.”
In a blog called “5 Steps to Being Present in the Moment,” he talks about being over-connected and how it can affect your personal relationships. As he says, “There’s physically being there and there’s mentally being there.” So his tips are simple things like turning off your phone when you’re with your spouse or family and actually paying attention to what they’re saying. And taking at least an hour each day away from the smartphone and the computer.
It really is a matter of balance and moderation. Too much of anything is not a good thing, so you need to decide when you’re going to be using social media, and when you’re just going to focus on the people around you.
And I would say that you’re actually going to be more connected when you are paying attention to the present moment, especially to the people in your life. The smartphone in your hand is a conduit to stay connected with the outside world, but it is just a tool and as such should not be running your life.
This quote from Maya Angelou was posted recently on Facebook, and pretty much says it all: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Personally, I’m looking forward to a week in a log cabin in northeastern Vermont (the Northeast Kingdom, as they call it). There’s no phone, no internet, and no TV, and I’m not even sure how much my cellphone will work up there. But it’s a time to kick back and relax, read a book, go hiking and swimming, make music, do yoga, cook up a nice meal, and spend quality time with my husband.
To help you take a break from digital overload this summer, here are a couple of other articles I ran across with some useful tips:
Taking a Summer Vacation From Social Media
“Adam Boettiger’s blog called “Digital Minimalism.” That’s a bit of an oxymoron”. LOL. Yes, I deliberately chose the name specifically BECAUSE it is an Oxymoron and play on words. It is not possible to practice true minimalism and be over-connected; so some of what I write about are techniques like a term I coined called “Elective Connectedness” or being connected when you CHOOSE to be, rather than the converse, which is “Interruptive Connectedness”. Elective Connectedness involves an Off Switch, Being Unreachable for periods of time and unplugging. Interruptive Connectedness is what most people know. Thanks for finding my blog! Adam
Adam, Thanks for your comment. I like this concept – social media on my own terms! Speaking of which, time to unplug for the night… Look forward to reading your future blogs to learn more about elective connectedness.
Well written, Janice, proving your own competency in communicating and stressing or emphasizing your interest in living a balanced and effective life as well. My wife makes me ever aware of when I drift away from the present, resorting the world of distraction afar and aplenty. I’m grateful for those reminders and those like your writing.
Enjoy your isolation and intimacy with the world as you explore the Northeast Kingdom.
I have noticed that my friends who are very “connected” all seem to be less connected to people right in front of them than they used to be. And I have noticed that the number of facebook friends can cover a lack of friends. I have a friend, now an ex-friend, who has only one friend, but is proud of his 1200 facebook friends. For me, having come to this viral age only lately, it is easy to keep a balance, and be happy using the tools, but also enjoying life. I recently turned my porch into an open porch, and now can spend time on my porch swing just watching people and life go by.
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