I recently watched a video posted to YouTube by Gary Turk called “Look Up” and thought I would share some of my initial responses and provide some interesting research from Pew.
I wonder how helpful it is to demonize the mobile technological innovation we hold in our hands. The video describes how much of life one misses out on just because they were looking at a screen. The missed encounters, the baby never born, the lack of friends, and ensuing isolation. Really? Our best attempts at thinking critically is by a video viewed over 25 million times with 187k likes on YouTube exhorting us to stop using screens because it isn’t real life? Ironically, the same devices that made the video possible and shareable are the ones we use to watch it and share it on our social networks.
Emerging digital technology, specifically social networks, are not causing us to be mindless and isolated humans without friends. Our life is always real life whether it happens face-to-face in the physical presence of another or sent in 0s and 1s through wireless infrastructure across the globe. Social networks are an integral life source that holds our mobile, global, and every changing culture together.
My sister met her boyfriend online (is that real life?).
We Skyped my other sister for 5+ hours during Christmas to open presents, drink wine, and play games (is that real life?).
We FaceTime with my nephew (2 years young) often to hear his voice and see him (is that real life?).
My grandma is on Facebook and this is one of the main ways we stay in touch. Not to mention the few times we’ve FaceTimed to say hello (is this real life?).
A friend has built a strong network of close friends from all over the country on Tumblr. She has even traveled to and with some of them (is that real life?).
Social networks are real life. It is time to shift the debate between digital experience vs. face-to-face experience and transition to being present wherever we are. Be present in your social online encounters. Be present with your friends at dinner. Don’t miss your child’s first steps because you were liking a post on Facebook. Whatever you are doing just be there and don’t worry about whether or not there is a screen between you and them.
Pew Research has some interesting research in this area that is worthwhile to dig into. I include a section below, but I do encourage you to check out the additional links with more comprehensive information.
Social networking sites are increasingly used to keep up with close social ties
The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American
Facebook users have more close relationships
Internet users get more support from their social ties and Facebook users get the most
Be present and enjoy life!