Friday, September 9, 2011

Not About a Bike

Sitting in a small café on Tuesday, I overheard a girl and her father at the table next to me talking loudly about her birthday plans. The server came to greet the two and the girl announced it was her nineteenth birthday. Soon, every employee was gathered in a circle around the table to sing holding anything and everything that would make noise. Just after the “everyone join in now” and the actual start of Happy Birthday, the girl grabbed her phone:

“Oh my God, this will be the best Facebook status ever. Better than Mandy’s from two days ago!”

I almost choked on the bagel I was eating.

I looked over and the entire time everyone was singing Happy Birthday, the girl never looked up once from her phone: Status updated. Comment received. Another one. Like first comment. Respond to first comment. Like second comment. Respond to second comment. OMG. LOL.

Smoke seemed to be coming from the pink smartphone that was center of her universe. In the meantime (believe it or not) real, actual, authentic life--the waitstaff singing Happy Birthday-was happening outside of Facebook world. The girl was oblivious to it.  Facebookathon 2011 continued even when the song ended. She finally looked up about 30 seconds later and proudly announced to her father the number of likes and comments she received.

I set my glass down and just stared at the wall in front of me. Who are we? What have we become? Sadly though, this was nothing new. It’s the same as the mom who watches her son take his first steps through her iPhone and has it posted almost instantaneously or the one million pictures we have all seen of every type of alcoholic beverage, in every bar surrounded by twenty drunk people posing for said pictures again and again and again. Sure, pictures are fun and great times should be recorded with technology, but look around right after the picture is taken and count how many people are posting it to their Facebook pages.

But wait…what is occurring again during the immediate Facebook fixation? 

Oh, yeah…Life. The present moment. Here. Now.Conversation. Interaction. The baby’s 3rd, 4th and 5th steps. All missed while we are posting.

Another great example is a story my friend told me about a date he had with a girl who was constantly texting. (We all know this person. She is the one who has the fake-interested nod, says “Oh yeah, I know” too many times and has the ridiculous courtesy laugh that takes the place of her actually listening because her incoming text is really top priority.) After several frustrating conversation attempts, and the fact that he was pretty hungry and the waiter was standing at the table, he finally got out his phone and texted her:

“Are you ready to order dinner?”

His phone beeped almost immediately:  “Whenever you are.”

True story. Yeah, really.

So, these are extreme examples, but do serve to illustrate my point well.However, before I go on, I definitely want to assert that I:

 Am certainly not judging anyone 
 Do not have it all figured out
Am not saying that we should never use Facebook again. It has definite uses and benefits
Am not bringing up anything new here. You can all relate

I am just really saddened with the superficiality of conversation I experience on a daily basis characterized by broad formalities and quick responses that are never truly heard or cared about. Much is empty, meaningless chatter that just fills up time followed by inability to remember the conversation, lack of eye contact and numerous glances at the iPhone. At some point, the conversation falls silent because they have no idea how to respond due to the fact they haven’t a clue what I just said. And so, the cycle of disconnect continues…

Where did we start becoming so disconnected? Have we lost the ability to reconnect? To feel the sting of sadness or the euphoria of love and happiness? Are we really so busy? Do we have so many emails and Facebook messages to answer that many get short, uncaring, businesslike replies? Life doesn’t exist in the news, on Facebook or Twitter. A text message is not the same as a person’s voice. An emoticon is not the same as a smile or a laugh. It cannot convey compassion or tenderness. An exclamation point is not the same as human excitement or elation.

Life is here. Now. This moment. Staring you in the face. What matters? REALLY matters? People? Friendships? Conversations that cut deeply or just touch broadly on silly shit like current events/new products that we will forget about in a few hours? Can we slow down and live with authenticity? Reach out and put some meaning into our conversations? Increase our awareness of the present, real moment that is occurring? Hell, maybe even LIVE in the moment?

Technology is useful, ever-evolving and sometimes truly amazing. It is not the culprit. We have a choice of how much, when and where social media fits into our lives. I am a bit guilty of “social media overuse” lately and have been allowing myself to be part of the very cycle that breaks my heart and leaves me feeling empty. I am tired of feeling like an epic social failure when I reach down and try to connect with someone and get only broad formality in return. I can’t count the number of times I walk away from completely benign conversations just shaking my head in disbelief. No, not every human interaction needs to be profound and earth-shattering. But can you listen and fully engage in the light and fun conversations without concern for your phone or feeling the need to do something, be somewhere or  “one-up” the story? Tell me something from your heart. Look me in the eyes. What makes you come alive? What brings you to your knees? What do you dream of doing someday?

Behind this laptop is a human heart. Just like yours. And I a value human connection far more than an internet connection. 

So come to life. Your (real) life is happening now all around you.


  1. Super well thought out and written! Exactly what I think.

    Great Read.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I have been thinking about this for a long time and finally figured out the words to go with what I was feeling. Glad to know others relate.I guess I too am a "social flunkie." And love it!

  3. Where is the 'like' button?

    I'm glad I come from a generation that pre-dated facebook. It scares me to think that there are children out there who can't remember a time before it existed. There area series of ads running in Aus for a mobile phone carrier where people relate their social networking interactions using that carriers phones. It is just nauseating - almost like the little fat people on flying beds in the movie Wall-E.

    We all fall victim to the mundane at some point, the trick is recognizing you have become a zombie and doing something about it..... perhaps by doing 'epic sh!t"

  4. Well said Jill. I battle with the problem that 95% of the comments my blog generates are posted on FB and not on my site. (I post a link on FB, ppl click on it, go to my site, then leave and go back to FB to post a comment. Seriously!!!) I hate FB for all the reasons you mentioned and more but without it my blog wouldn't see any traffic. It's the classic "Catch 22" I face.
    What was once my personal FB account is now a access point for everyone else to my blog. pi11wizard said it well with his closing sentence.

  5. Yep, Scatman. I completely relate to every word you are saying on the catch 22.

    pi11wizard...brilliantly worded, love your insight and wit!


    This is great too. This guy calls it how it is.