Back Before Everything Became Automatic

AutomaticA couple of weeks ago we had our annual Girls’ Weekend. Every January, my mom, my sister, my mom’s sisters and my female cousins all head up to the mountains to meet a group of gals, as well as their daughters, who grew up with my mom and aunts. We never bother with specific plans for the weekend, aside from meal menus, but instead, we use it as a time to relax, chat, catch up with one another, laugh, eat, play games, etc. It’s a time to ‘switch-off,’ if you know what I mean, to ‘disconnect’ from the every day.

While this weekend retreat resembled most of our other times together, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every single person there, at one point or another, was on Facebook or some form of social media (myself included!). I don’t know why it stood out to me this time, because I’m sure we’ve all ‘checked’ Facebook when together before, and it wasn’t as if any one person did it excessively.

I think it happened to stand out to me this time because of how ‘normal’ it now is. Being completely connected (to the world) is even normal when getting away in order to be disconnected!

While I was sitting at the table with my sis and cousins playing another gruesome round of Phase10, I was struck by the scene of the 60-somethings surfing Facebook while lounging in the living room.  It occurred to me that social media is here. A pretty obvious fact you might say! And yes, it is, but I mean, social media is here . . . to stay. I don’t think for one second that social media is a fad or a phase, do you? If anything, I’m sure that digital technology will only continue in a forward direction, with higher levels of sophistication and accessibility, which in and of itself is scary! I mean we’re already in a place where almost any piece of information we want to obtain is within a finger-tip touch away! And when it comes to accessibility? Well, given the fact that I can communicate in real time with my girlfriend in Amsterdam without a seconds delay and even see when’s she’s typing, I would chalk that up to being pretty darn accessible.

When sitting there taking in the scene of these ladies doing their social media thing, I couldn’t help but wonder just how far digital technology has crept into our lives. And are we even aware of the real-life changes that it’s causing? As we continue to participate and engage with it, are we acknowledging the fact that life as we knew it, before social media, is over?

(Before I go any further, I need to say I’m a fan! I use it daily, and my job literally revolves around it. I am on it A. LOT.) But stop with me for two minutes just to think of the amount of TIME that we give to digital technology. You are reading this right now as we speak! Any chance you’re on your phone? I’ll probably re-read this myself, even after writing it, because it will be on my phone screen at some point too.

My husband and I watch British news at home, and we recently saw where the BBC hosted a digital detox weekend. Yes, an entire weekend where people were forced to refrain from texting, emailing, ‘checking’ social media platforms and or any of the other stuff we do while online. They were there voluntarily . . . because they needed help! I had to Google it. Check out this snippet from an article I came across:

My name’s Julia and it’s fair to say I’m a digiholic. Virtually every second of my day is spent with my phone at arm’s reach. But I’m far from the worst offender. The average person checks their phone every six and a half minutes – 200 times a day. One in four of us admits to spending longer online each day than we do asleep, while 73% say that we would struggle to go the whole day without our phones or computers.

The article continues, “I’m seeing more and more parents who want advice because their children are spending too much time on screens,” says Frances Booth, author of The Distraction Trap, who runs family and individual coaching sessions on “digital detoxing.” “They’re worried their children aren’t learning how to communicate properly, that they never read any more and that their learning is being affected because they’re constantly being distracted by phone messages.

Booth is concerned with the effect that “multi-tasking,” the process by which we use various gadgets simultaneously to play games, watch television, chat to friends and google pictures of cute puppies, is having on our brains.

Research shows that doing even just two or three tasks at once puts far more demand on our brains than doing them consecutively. ‘We are doing so many things, all we are doing is processing on a surface level. If there’s split focus, then memories aren’t encoded – nothing goes in to your long-term memory. This has serious consequences for learning,’ Booth confirms.” For more disturbing facts about today’s technology, click here.

It’s so easy to argue all the benefits of progressed digital technology and social media. It truly has been a wonderful thing, and in so many ways! The Hudson Hike2harsh reality however, is that it can be an incredibly negative thing too. (Please raise your hand if you’ve ever sat on the couch with your husband, after the babies were in bed, both surfing the internet on your phone? Or maybe even worse, at the dinner table?) I’m guilty.

My dad said something not too long ago that really made me think. Before he had joined the rest of the world in texting, he said, “If we all started with the capability of texting first, we would have found speaking to each other directly on the phone to be the greatest, most convenient way of communication! Instead, we started with the most direct form of communication and have worked backwards.” While I totally love the flexibility (and convenience) of texting, I get exactly what he’s saying.

Does our digital technology truly help us, or is there any part of it that is actually complicating our lives? Do I really need an app for that? What exactly am I ‘checking’ for anyway? What moment/hundreds of moments have I missed while being unintentionally engrossed in what that gal from high school is up to these days? Seriously? How much of my life have I absolutely wasted?!!!

I included the picture of that toy chest because it was the toy chest that my sister and I used to rummage through when at my Grandmother’s house. It was like a treasure trove that seemed HUGE at the time. It satisfied us, stimulated us and entertained us with the same toys, over and over and over again, and that was when we were inside! I’m 34 years old and digital technology (in the form of social media) has only been a true part of my life for what, the last 4-6 years semi-consistently? It’s the way forward for communication, advertising, networking, etc., and I just can’t help but wonder what role it’s going to play in the lives of my children. Will they find the level of satisfaction in the simple things the way that we did when growing up? Can any of the wonders of the ‘mundane’ compete with the thrills of pending digital technology?

With all this talk, I can’t help but think of Miranda Lambert’s song Automatic. Have you heard it? (I love her twang.) It isn’t about social media per se, but rather life in fast forward, advanced technology the loss of a slower, more simplistic way of life. It’s a goodin’. Listen to it here.

What are your thoughts? How will you balance/manage the level of your child’s engagement with digital media? How will you plan to keep up with technology in order to keep up with him or her?

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