Monday, July 7, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I came up with a plan...

but have yet to implement it. Looking over my idea journal I carry with me everywhere, I find that this is all too often how I (don't) do things.

Anyway, the plan is this: once a week, probably Sunday, I will observe "Analog Day". Analog day will be a day of less smartphones, tablets, and internet. Specifically, the way I will define analog is by living that 24-hour period as if it is 2001. In 2001 I had the internet, but only on computers. In 2001 I had a cell phone, but could only make calls and text? I think I had texting capabilities, though people weren't really doing it a lot yet. With my limited verbal skills, texts would still have to exist on Analog Day. However, I don't want to use the fact that I'm "allowed" to text as an excuse to be preoccupied with texting all day...sooooo generally this day will be a day that I go out and enjoy the world outside, leaving my phone at home.

In 2001 I often left my phone at home. In 2014 I'm worried I have it at my side too often. I check it for mundane bits of information too frequently.

Our digital surroundings can easily become a crutch when you use them instead of doing more creative things. Creativity is usually more analog than digital. Writing in a blog could have been done in 2001, for example, while checking Facebook could not. Reading a book in a waiting room could have been done in 2001, while playing Bejeweled on your phone could not...not the Nokia I had, anyway.

2014 is the year that I have read the least in my entire adult life, I think. It could be an incorrect assumption, but I fear this is mostly due to a shortened attention span caused by a click-fast culture of checking statuses of things (weather, texts, emails, facebook, etc). Too much of my time spent online is re-upping information that doesn't mean anything. Have I checked Instagram today? What about Tumblr? While some sites genuinely engage me (Tumblr, Forever Young Adult, Jezebel), most provide bland scrolling and mindless entertainment (Facebook, Instagram). Where are these distractions pulling my life? I think the answer is sideways or down or nowhere at all. I feel that books and blogs and radio stations and going outside take me much further into a future of attention, intelligence, and meaning.

However, I don't at all condemn our new shiny objects of distraction. I love the world at my fingertips, but I would like to learn that I don't have to access that world every time I use my fingertips. It took me awhile to learn that having a cell phone, even if I have it on me at all times, didn't mean I had to be accessible to everyone all the time. Now, only 4 years after purchasing my first smartphone, I've found it is my time to learn that although the world's information is almost always available to me, it doesn't mean I need to access  it all the time. 

This brings me to my mild disdain (ok, maybe it's more like a medium simmering disdain) for Facebook. On the one hand, I am completely all for everyone being in the same space online and being able to organize my entire social life from one location. On the hand that I'm more often holding, I recognize that posting statuses on Facebook has become a placeholder for real interactions with others. When I talk to friends and family, I would like to know how they're feeling about their lives. Often when I have "catch-up" conversations, they are punctuated by, "Didn't you see my Facebook status?" or even conversations continuing from online "conversations" that were simply a friend or family member posting a status. For example, someone in my immediate family is currently in the process of moving. It didn't occur to anyone in my family to tell me about this event, because it was on Facebook. I think the next step in socialization now that so much of it has migrated online, is simply to remember that not everyone sees everything you post on Facebook.

I'd like to clarify that I don't mean conversations you've had with me online can't migrate to in person. They absolutely can and SHOULD. I love conversation through any medium and across all platforms. What I mean is when a person assumes an online status update is like a telepathic transmission to all "Facebook friends". It isn't. Maybe I don't use Facebook the way regular people use Facebook...which makes sense because I don't socialize the way others socialize. Namely, I cannot withstand the stimulation of knowing what everyone is doing at all times. To keep up with a couple hundred friends on a website would take all my energy from me, so be kind and don't assume we all know what you're doing because you posted pictures of your son's wedding in Albuquerque. Chances are, I didn't see those pictures.

I realize this is all a new venue of etiquette we as a society don't yet know how to navigate. I dislike being interrupted with "Yeah, I saw that on Facebook" when I'm talking about what's going on with me as much as I dislike others answering "How are you?" with..."You didn't see my Facebook?" Much of what I mean when I ask someone how they are is how are you right NOW? How do you feel today? What are you excited about? How are you coping with your life at this moment in time in front of me right now? What are you into, man?

Odd for me of all people to be requesting a more traditional style of socialization. Me of the only-text-never-answer-phone-calls fame. Me of the "I prefer to socialize online" battle cry.

I think I just figured out what I dislike about it! Back in the '90s, online communication was one-on-one or chat rooms of a few people in real time or via direct communication like email. Now it's more indirect megaphone-style life updates. What I really want is to actually talk/type to people I like.

Anyway, Analog Day. I'm doing it...starting next Sunday.

Followers