Blogger Biography: “A Girl” is a veterinary technician by trade and loves her work in emergency and critical care. She is married to a USMC reservist with 10 years of service, whom she met shortly after he returned from a deployment. They have been married for nearly five years and have three, very bratty dogs, who they couldn’t adore more. Between her life as an ER tech, and his military service, they rarely get to spend much time together, but enjoy finding new ways to make the most of the precious time they have.
A few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. My smart phone broke. It would randomly turn off and wouldn’t allow me to do much of anything with it, let alone check my email or Twitter account. This all may sound very silly, but how many of you get a rush of panic when your cell phone dies? I know I do.
But here’s the thing, I never used to be one for social media. I was the last person to have a Myspace page, and I never checked it anyway. I signed up for Facebook, begrudgingly, because my husband was deployed and we found it to be the easiest way to share videos of our dog and life back home. I was never one to text message, actually preferring to call someone, or (gasp) see them in person. But here I am, three years later, on Facebook and my blog’s Twitter account more than anything, I never call anyone anymore and thought I wouldn’t be able to live if my phone wasn’t constantly dinging to tell me I have an email, a text message, that someone on Facebook has posted something new or that someone on Twitter mentioned me.
When my phone died, we were unable to immediately get it fixed. I’ve spent the last three weeks without the constant bombardment of social media in my daily life. Here’s what I’ve come to realize: we are TOO connected, but we are not really connected at all.
Not only does my phone constantly ringing in my ear make me far less productive, but I discovered that the people who bothered to call me on my land line or attempted to bridge the gap that was my lack of cell phone/text messaging abilities, were the people I cared the most about anyway. My friendships became more meaningful, my time better spent and my downtime became actual downtime.
Studies have shown that those who spend more time interacting with people via the Internet begin to lose the ability to read physical, social clues of how others are feeling when interacting with them in person. Imagine losing the ability to tell if someone is sad, lying, irritated or angry. But not only is that a possible side effect of this overly connected life we live, but think about how often you check work email at home because it goes to your phone. I’m beyond guilty of that. Think about the last time you truly had some time to yourself, no cell phone dinging, no Facebook messaging or Twitter in your ear, reminding you of what you are missing. Prior to my phone breaking, it was three years ago, around the time I joined Facebook for my husband.
To be honest, I spent the first 24 hours anxious. I had no email while waiting in the doctor’s office, I had no texting in line for coffee, I had no means of connecting with others during the mundane parts of my day. But slowly, I felt a strange freedom from it all. Suddenly, I was uninterrupted and free to spend my time however I chose without having to worry I was missing out on something. It was a weight I didn’t realize I was carrying and it was suddenly lifted. That strange urge to be constantly in contact with everyone I know felt like a trance I had been under.
I have since gotten my phone fixed, but have taken to leaving it on silent. I want to maintain some of the freedom I experienced. But I am finding that now that I have the phone back, the allure of having that constant connection is very hard to stay away from.
I worry about what this means for our generation and the generations to come. Though the invention and use of social media has done amazing things for our abilities to find old friends and keep in contact when we are worlds apart, our generation and the those following us seem to be unable to cut ties with it and remember what life was like before we had this technology. I worry that if someone like me, who shunned the very thought of Myspace and hated text messaging just a few short years ago, could suddenly find myself anxious at the idea of not being able to have these impersonal relationships with others, then those who have never lived without it, may very well never be able to live without it.