As Instagram adds video, Facebook adds hashtags, and nearly every person I see on the (nyc) streets is glued to their smart phones playing Candy Crush (still don’t really know what that is) or is snapchatting (totally legit), I feel like all I’m reading about is the act of getting off of these devices and unplugging.
There was the recent NYTimes OpEd that had everyone (myself included) ironically tweeting: How to Not Be Alone. FastCompany has been conducting their own digital detox with the hashtag #unplug (check out some stories here, here, and here) and a dude even decided to leave the Internet for a year. Over a year ago I wrote about Pico Iyer’s piece, The Joy of Quiet, and since then have read about the myth of disconnecting, while more recently seen commencement speeches from tech guys urging students to take a break from technology.
And it makes sense. As we become more connected and social media continues to expand, people are concerned and curious as to how it’s affecting relationships: if it’s bringing people together in a new and empowering way, or if it’s destroying the importance of traditional interaction. (Aka FaceTime…without a phone.)
Yet I feel like the connectivity we experience on social media is not replacing or competing with the connectivity we feel offline. Facebook friends are different that real friends. Instagram likes are different from real feedback on artwork. Texts are different from in-person conversations. And the truth of the matter is, in my opinion, that we need both. I’m the first to admit that I like social media. Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool that has helped me form genuine connections both on and offline. Facebook allows me to stay in touch with friends around the world, and Instagram lets me capture moments in my life I may otherwise forget (like my cat who liked to hang out in my refrigerator).
But I also desperately need that other side of the coin. I prefer meeting people in person than I do talking on the phone. I’d also much rather call up a friend than send a string of texts. I like meeting and making new friends in random situations, and I naturally need, and crave, human touch.
— Laura Schwecherl (@lschwech) June 19, 2013
Luckily, I think it’s pretty easy to live a balanced life of being connected and disconnected without going to extremes. (Or you could go to this digital detox summer camp.) I know my friend Meg has made a conscious effort to call her friends instead of text, while Derek tries to unplug completely on most Sundays. I try to take a daily walk to Madison Square park without my phone. Or if I’m standing in line waiting for a coffee or the bathroom or a beer – I people watch instead. I’ve more recently turned off my phone when out to eat (I can’t ‘gram my dinner, but that’s ok…) and I’ve been kiiiind of trying to turn off all electronics an hour before bed. (Besides, I’d rather get cozy with books, bourbon, and/or boy instead of my Twitter feed.)
And perhaps the most important thing? Don’t measure your self-worth by the number of Twitter followers, Instagram likes, our FourSquare notifications you receive. Don’t hide behind texts and blogs (!) and feeds. But don’t think you’re an evil person for enjoying these either — for feeling a little self-validation from social media is okay, and being a little less lonely on the Internet completely normal.
So go write a blog post, and then go outside. Check-in to a favorite restaurant, then turn off your phone. Snapchat a best friend, and then hug them in real life. And tell them you love them in way more than 140 characters.