They’re not wrong. But it’s not for me.
I’ve spent a week without social media recently. No twitter, no facebook, no online interaction at all. I turned off everything. No notifications on my phone. It was weird at first you know. I’d pull my phone out of my pocket at a somewhat regular interval, because it was “about time” there was something there for me to see. Except this time there wasn’t. And for the first couple days it was weird. Kind of the same feeling you get when you pull off the interstate into a rest area, while the rest of the traffic screams past you on the highway at a little bit more than the fastest velocity allowed by law. Some going left, some going right, but all pretty much following the one ahead of them in an orderly fashion, bound by rules they all acknowledge and accept. While I meanwhile, had to stop.
You see you don’t stop at a rest area because you enjoy the amenities. Rest stops are built out of a biological necessity. Given the choice you’d choose a gas station where you could get a candy bar and a Mtn Dew Code Red for the miles ahead. Or in a best case scenario, make it home, to the only bathroom on earth you can feel comfortable in naked. But here you are, at exit 328, if nothing else for a quick pit stop to make the next leg of your journey somewhat bearable.
The rest stop analogy ends there for the most part. I was growing weary of the amount of attention required to be given to my phone. I once pulled my phone out of my pocket and was informed I had 22 notifications. Twenty-Two. At any given point along my existence up until now, I don’t think there’s any singular point where I’ve cared about 22 different things at once. Messages, sports scores, news updates, recommendations, reviews. There’s NO WAY I’m this important that twenty-two different people or organizations NEED input from ME.
And for the first time in my life that I can recall, it was starting to affect my real life relationships. Not that I was spending too much time on my phone… but because I wasn’t spending ENOUGH. At the right times. With the right people. Saying the right things. Sharing the right stuff. To the extent that it was starting to effect my REAL LIFE relationships. And THIS really pissed me right the hell off.
You see, I exist in a pretty unique and remarkable moment in human history. I remember when email was new. I remember IRC, ICQ, MSN Messanger, AIM… and then later when text messaging was the thing. Always as each new thing came out, and people used it to communicate more and more. I still saw them as a substitute for actual interaction. “This is the thing you can do when you can’t be together.” It was the ‘instead’. You used it to in the moments between the time you really wanted with a person. Could you have meaningful conversation? Sure. But it was never the first choice.
I feel like I’m witnessing another remarkable moment in human history as I breath this air. Digital interaction isn’t just as important as face to face interaction. It’s maybe even more important. We’ve wrapped so much of our identity and actual lives around the pixel portal we hold in our hands, that it literally is a relevant measure of who we are as a physical person. And the fact that we have access to it at literally every living breathing millisecond of our lives makes it… completely reasonable.
Who is a person without their phone? Does it matter if they always have a phone?
When I realized being bad a phones, meant I was being bad at relationships. I suddenly did a full stop. I never thought about it before, that having constant connection and constant contact, or at least the ability to do so, was a reality of my existence. It was for better or worse, and by choice or not, a reality of how the world saw me. I could be reached at any moment. Therefore expected to respond at any moment. By contrast, I could reach out at any moment. Therefore expected to do so at any moment. I have always said, “I’m not good at everything. I just try to only do the things I’m good at.” And I suck at this.
Besides. It’s not what I want. It’s not who I want to be. I don’t want to be known for the sweetest links. I don’t want to be a master of the emoji. I don’t want to be the person who can craft the most heartwarming text. It may be how people prefer to experience me rather than taking up their actual time and space, but to be honest, if that’s the case… I’m not sure it’s worth my actual time and space.