Maybe your honeymoon.
The other day while scrolling through friends’ photos that appeared on my Facebook timeline, I came across something that first caught my eye, and second made me think. It was a photograph of an unnamed friend and his newly-wedded wife, in an unnamed European city, in front of an unnamed historic monument (is that anonymous enough?). The caption read, “Honeymoon, day 1.”
At first I thought to myself, “Ah, rad, unnamed friend is now married and having fun with his wife on their honeymoon.” Then I thought to myself, “Holy fucking shitballs, bro, if there is ever a time in your life that you do not need to be updating your Facebook status, it is on your honeymoon. We’re totally happy for you and all, but damn.”
Here’ my brief disclosure. If you were to draw a spectrum of engagement by social media users with “most people’s grandpa’s” on one side, and “you’ve average 14 year old girl” on the other – I would fall much closer to most peoples’ grandpa. Despite being a part of the initial demographic of (large scale) social media users, a site like Facebook held little appeal to me for a long time. I was in my freshman year at UCLA when Facebook was launched, and I think our campus was the second or third to gain access to the site…yet I couldn’t find a compelling reason at the time to join. I figured I had lived 19 years of my life thus far without it, and was quite happy. When I wanted to talk to someone, I would pick up the phone and call them – and this seemed to work alright. It wasn’t until after I graduated and I began being sent requests to join Facebook from my mom (yeah, my mom – if you befriend her she will comment all up on your status) that I ended up creating an account.
I’ve accepted it – social media is an integral part of our society and is not going anywhere (nor is Facebook, IMO, despite what their current valuation may suggest). It is a great way to share important information quickly and does allow us to connect with people that we might have otherwise ultimately lost contact with. I use it near daily and my current work depends upon it heavily. But that being said, with current levels of connectedness, where are the boundaries, and what are the personal cost of ignoring them?
I am not the first person to suggest that social media and mobile technology is changing the way we behave, changing the way we interact with others, significantly shifting where we focus our attention (wreaking havoc on our ability to focus at all?), and ultimately impacting the way our society functions – for better and for worse. There is some serious value in it all – I LOVE seeing photos of my nephews on occasions like their first day of school, and appreciate photos posted by friends doing badass activities, and interesting bits of culture and news that come across my timeline. It can be a great tool to gather people and to affect social sentiment. The list goes on. But it’s not all good – and it’s not all necessary. (note: I am in the midst of developing a Rooted app, so am singlehandedly contributing to the propagation of electronic dependence – though hopefully with some beneficial societal impact).
I don’t know specifically what drives our desire to share information online – is it that we are ultimately social beings that want to be accepted as part of a community? Is it an insecurity that leaves us seeking validation from others? Is it boredom without a better alternative to occupy our time? It’s probably all of these things, plus a host of others.
But I believe there is a time and a place for all of it, and more and more it seems this “time and place” is becoming “any time and every place.” Still, determining what is necessary requires a basic level of consciousness of when and how social media is enhancing our lives, or when it may be invading them in an unnecessary way, detracting from our ability to be present and live in the moment for the sake of what we are actively engaged in – nothing more, nothing less.
I’ve never been married (but plan to be so at least a few times – that way I’ll get good at it), so can’t speak from experience, but like to imagine that on my honeymoon there will be one person that matters, the woman I have committed my life to. Sorry friends, but you will not see photos and status updates from my honeymoon. If there is one thing I will not be thinking about it is updating my status, allowing me to focus my mind for long enough to enjoy one of the few (actually, many) times in my life that my attention should be on one person and one single situation – nothing more. Maybe Mystery Future Wife and I will go drink a bunch of espressos at a sidewalk café and watch people stroll by (they’ll be snapping photos and posting them to Instagram, for sure). Or we’ll drink a few too many glasses of wine, go back to the hotel room overlooking of some body of water, turn the lights down low and have crazy conversation. Whatever it may be, I’ll be present and engaged. My friends and family will still love me after I get back (unless I’ve made the completely wrong choice in wife, of course) – and the stories I’ll have to tell (with the bits of information I decide to include) will be just as compelling.
This honeymoon example just happened to get me thinking (and saying things like “holy fucking shitballs,” an expression I really need to start using more often. But you can imagine so many others that we see in our every day lives.
I’ve got no suggestions, no rules for what is appropriate and what is not – this is absolutely not my place to say. But I do challenge you to try to spend some more time each day with just you, your mind, or the people that are immediately around you in that moment. I’m sure social media experts and life coaches have compiled lists of rules about when to use social media and when not to. At the end of the day you’ve got to do what works for you, but my fear is that our “connectedness” is at times making us less connected with the people that matter than we are even aware. Think more. Enjoy more for the sake of enjoying. It’s quite nice once you begin to remember how to.
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