Put down the device, live in the moment

The advent of social media has revolutionized not only how we document our lives, but how we live them. Look around. It’s not uncommon now for many of us to fill Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds with our everyday comings and goings.

Granted, I’m the last one to suggest all-out social media abstinence. Those of you who have me on your “Friends” list know I’m a regular purveyor of 140-character Twitter witticisms, artsy-filtered Instagram photos, and the occasional ideological debate on Facebook. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing, way too much of a mediocre thing, or diabolically too much of a trivial thing.

I was reading a British newspaper earlier this week where a rock & roll guitarist was lamenting how young people are utterly ensnared by their technology. He described a concert performance the night before where one youth on the front row was holding up his iPad to record the show — with a few of his friends craning their necks to watch it on the device.

A friend of mine described a niece’s dance recital he attended as, “A few dozen kids performing to an audience full of smartphones.” Those of you who attended any of the various commencements last week likely saw this as well.

Yesterday I was at a restaurant where a gathering of people were celebrating a birthday or marriage or graduation (or something) and, between the occasional “group selfie,” most of the party had their heads down and their thumbs twiddling on glowing touchscreens.

One of my relatives lamented she’d forgotten her phone at home when attending her child’s awards assembly. “Oh no!” I quipped, “You mean you actually had to devote your attention to celebrating with your son instead of posting it online?”

Harsh, I know, but I think she knew I was just kidding…  sort of.

We’ve all seen this, and it’s becoming more common than not. Almost as ubiquitous as these sorts of abuses are all the self-important blowhards (like me) pontificating about it, as well as traditionalists giving those young whippersnappers the “stinkeye.” However, I flatter myself a “moderate” in this particular culture scuffle.

Think about it, most of the smartphones, tablets and social media people know today are generally less than five to 10 years old.

Facebook was founded in 2004, the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and the first iPad did not debut until 2010. With a smartphone, you’ve basically got a computer in your pocket. This provides endless opportunities to interact, connect, share and receive information every second of the day. Social media sites provide you with the ability to share your words, images, moments, ideas with a few simple strokes of a finger. In the last 10 years we’ve been granted a technology which probably seemed preposterous a generation ago.

Thus, it’s not surprising people do not always use this medium with a bit more self-discipline — again, myself included.

It is another dimension — a new, information-overloaded dimension — in the work-life balance we all strive to maintain. Technology impacts our lives in so many ways. When it comes to this technology, we are learning as we go and still working to master the balance between the Internet world and the real world. For all of the “oversharing” I inflict upon the few patient souls who dare to follow my social media presence, there’s so much I keep to myself and those I share my life with. In fact, it’s a world unto itself — which is how it should be.

So click and snap away! Take artsy shots of wildflowers and soak them in a colorful Instagram filters. Tweet as many hilarious 140-character movie quotes as you want (especially if they’re from “Fletch”). Share that video of your little darling making a mess of her first birthday cupcake. I love it, and I’ll be sure to “Like” it too!

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it — because, ultimately, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

Yes, capture those important milestones, and graciously invite me to join in your delight.

But don’t forget to sometimes put down the device, and just live in the moment.


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