How much are we as a culture ‘skimming the top’ of information, relationships, friendships and decisions in general?
People are talking and writing about the results of a study from the International Center for the Media and Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland. In their study”24 Hours: Unplugged,” 200 students were asked to go without using any media (MP3, newspaper, computer, phone television etc.) for twenty four hours. The results were that they suffered the same withdrawal symptoms of more severe additions such as drug use. What does this mean? Our youth like to stay connected with each other- is this something that we need to worry about? The study also found that a majority of these students were not using this media to stay informed of local or world news, but to stay connected to family or friends. What do we do with this information?
One person can have: a Facebook account, blog, Tweet, email , gaming life, Ping-not to mention text messaging on the phone. This virtual and social media life is only one part of a person’s life- there is the real life: interacting with friends, family, appointments, organizations and work. How do we fulfill all of these demands unless we simply skim the surface of many of these obligations? The answer is we can’t .
I’m certain that we all can identify at least once or twice in a regular day where we are with someone who checks their email, gets a call or text message while we are talking to them- maybe we are one of these people ourselves. Possibly you have experienced or committed the ultimate faux pas – answering a cell phone or texting on a date. What does this mean? Our attention is divided- we are not completely with the people in our physical space. We are not going deep- we are not in the moment – our attention is distracted.
I had a friend that recently cancelled his blog. When I asked him the reason for this, he answered it was just too much of a commitment- he just didn’t have the time. At first I was disappointed – I enjoyed reading his blog. I have on my wall the definition of wisdom: the ability to realize what is of value in life. He realized that he didn’t have enough time to go deep, and that it would cost him time that he would rather put into other projects, and relationships- a wise choice I realize now.
It is a wonderful ability to stay connected to friends and family through social media. On a hard day at work or home a person can receive some words of support from a friend that can completely change the mood. We can find friends from our past and connect with friends and family around the world. What this study highlights is the growing nature of our culture to skim the surface of social connection- to be socially overextended.
Can we challenge ourselves to use one media at a time- to focus on one thing at a time? Talking with someone, and letting the text wait. Listening to someone and putting down the laptop lid. Be as wise as my friend, and say ‘no’ to another social media that will take attention and time. Or would ‘going deep’ or a heightened sense of focus cause anxiety? We can try and see.