Monday, September 29, 2014

Sacrilicious Sunday Services blog: Too much tech?

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The second and last blog...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Are we more connected or less connected because of social media?

So it's not Sunday... whatevs... This blog will be switching to a vlog (or blog/vlog hybrid or something) once I get it all sorted out. In the meantime, I'll give you a topic...

I saw this link yesterday to a video called Look Up arguing that we are cut off by our obsessive social media activities. It's like slam poetry but a bit slower. And it's good, but I find myself wanting to tell the author to just calm the hell down. It's so dire. I can't say that the amount of time we're spending on electronics isn't a problem, especially kids, but it's not the only thing going on. It's also not like this is the first time in history we've had anti-social trends.

There was a black&white picture going around recently of a crowded commuter train fully of nobody talking to each other because they were all behind their newspapers. Then came radio, and then television, personal computers and video games, each being hailed as the end of civilization as we know it. That isn't entirely wrong. The old norms pass away, but some things always remain.

I'm sitting in coffee shop right now. Some people are chatting, some on their computers, some behind a book or a newspaper. Almost everyone has checked their phone at some point. Even head-down over an app, we're communicating. We're chatting or texting with a friend. We're receiving information about the inane and momentous things going on in their lives right now. We're losing ourselves in a story, fictional or autobiographical. Some of us are reading about upcoming statistical research papers (because we are unashamed geeks). None of this stuff is new.

But I don't dismiss the truth that the amount of electronic interface time is changing. We can be accessible at all times. Some of us are physiologically addicted to checking our twitter and facebook accounts. I know the kids are supposed to be crazy texters - I remain one of the world's slowest - and so they come from a different mindset than when I was younger. There is no doubt that young brains develop differently when they spend too much time in front of a screen, at least partly because the brain reacts differently to an electronic screen than it does to the light bounced off a book, or the face of a friend. And it can't be argued that we can treat people differently when we are behind an internet connection than when we have to look at them eye to eye. We can be far, far crueler...

But I have found the various forms of electronic media to be the lifeline I have needed at different times in my life. When I have been homebound for long periods of time, being able to interact, even with strangers, online, I have felt like I still existed in the world. It has saved me from the rabbit hole of my own mind. It can get pretty dark down there, and you can always count on a little lolcat to drive away some of the darkness. Even so-called mindless cable TV helped abate some of the post-partem depression and loneliness I experienced after both of my boys were born.

There's a limit, of course. We need social interaction, but we can't get it all at a distance. We need to breath in other human thoughts and other human faces. We need empathy and discourse. We need human touch. And we need nature, fresh air and greenness. We need play and self-stimulous and imagination. If we are to remain a healthy society, we need to find the balance of all these forces.

Think of our electronics as a kind of food group. It's okay to ingest them, just in the right proportions for each person. It also means treating them like mealtime. A little snack is okay, even a meal of two. But some of us pop tweets like we pop potato chips. It's not healthy to be constantly eating, even small amounts, all day and especially not all night.

One last thing before I post this without editing and run off to my physical therapy appointment. In this video, it shows a missed opportunity for a relationship because of these nefarious electronics. You know how else you can miss out on talking to that person? Stopping to smell the flowers. Being on the other side of the street. Or even being at the park, which plenty of kids still do around here. You can't spend your life standing around on street corners waiting to have that chance encounter with "The One." That's why it's called chance.

Silly people. But I take your point.

So, anyone reading this, go meet up with some friends or strike up a conversation with some strangers and tell me what you think. Is our technology a leash or a lifeline?


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