Things have been quiet around here. My family and I were away for a few days, enjoying some serious summer appreciation and a change of scenery together. I thought about telling you all the specifics beforehand, secretly because I hoped you’d be concerned about my quietness, but I decided against it, just in case a couple of you would try to come by and take our chickens while I wasn’t looking. Just kidding — I know none of you would do that, and plus, if you needed a chicken bad enough to drive out here to take one, I’d like to think I would have offered it had you asked.
While I was gone I discovered that I missed checking in with my online peeps. This is weird to me, because I hadn’t thought I had much in the way of online friendships (I’m pretty sure it’s a one-way street and I’d be flabbergasted to discover that my absence was noticed). On the one hand there was a sense that I was missing my daily newspaper. But on the other, I had a sense that I sit one table over from the cool kids and get to listen to their conversation without actually being a part of it.
There’s another aspect of consistently checking the twitter feed or other favorite internet sites.
In this culture of instant reaction and the unpredictable nature of what will go viral, to be unplugged is to potentially miss an opportunity. Make the right comment on an article or write the right reaction piece and you can ride the wave of interest. In the quest to be distinguished from the masses, it seems the expectation is to have your finger on the pulse of trends and conversations and be one step ahead of others. You can try to arrive fashionably late but you’ll be out of luck because they lock the doors promptly. They’re persnickety about these things.
The problem is that in an attempt to scan the headlines and popular posts, we can neglect to pay attention to our non-online lives — our real lives.
When our online life trumps our real life, we have a real problem.
Opportunities are important. Yes. We want to be prepared to see opportunity when it comes and aligns with our goals.
Ultimately, though, relationships are the thing life is all about. The ability to have relationships in person is what feeds us in vital ways. Amongst innumerable other things, when you have great moments in your work life, they are made more meaningful when you have real life people who can celebrate with you.
Being constantly online is like being that friend who says ‘maybe’ to everything, and can’t commit to a specific event/party/plan because she doesn’t want to miss something better that might come along.
There are (many) times when relationships are happening face to face, in real time, in real life, and those are the people who need our attention. When we disengage from a conversation in order to respond to those frequent audible alerts to online activity, or when I can’t get my nose out of the MacBook, as it were, I devalue the interaction happening around me.
Do I think everybody should be restricted from checking their smartyphones during any possible interaction while they’re out and about?
Do I think it is healthy to create boundaries around when we choose to be online even though we have the electronic capacity to be online all the time?
When you forget to engage the real world, you miss out on possible inspiration for new perspectives and insights.
Our health will suffer.
Our relationships with nearby humans will suffer.
Our pets will suffer. Think of the pets, people. 😉
Sincerely, though, allowing yourself to turn off the glowing blue screen can free you from the pressure to be omnipresent, alert to all possible next-big-things and current whiz-bangs of the virtual world.
Internet notoriety has a short lifespan so let’s not sweat it. If we miss this “big thing”, there will be another big controversy or new angle for us to react to in a few days. Until then, let’s unplug every once in a while and enjoy doing summer with those we love.
Do you find it hard to unplug? How does it feel when you are unplugged on purpose versus against your will? How do you think it could benefit you to decrease the amount of time you spend online?