are we actually connected?
I have an important question for everyone out there and I want some answers: Do we always have to be connected? Or, better yet, when we are “connected” throughout the social stratosphere, are we really connected to others? These are both very serious questions at this point in my life, and I need some answers. Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to visit some great friends out in the beautiful area of Seattle, WA. It was my first trip out west and I had the time of my life with some great people from my college days at Miami University. From hitting the town of Seattle to seeing Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge, we packed as many good times into a weekend as a group could possibly handle. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and I packed up my belongings on Monday and headed for the airport. However, somewhere during my stay, I was notified that my data plan for my smartphone had ended for August, and I could only call certain individuals for the next ten days.
My brother had used the entirety of our data plan and now I had to suffer the consequences. Twitter? Nope. Snapchat? Sorry bud. Instagram? Facebook? I think you get where I’m going with this one. During this time, I was unable to receive or send any text messages, so I was basically phoneless for the last three days of my weekend adventure. It was a weird experience to be completely honest with you. Since I work in marketing/social media, I am always connected to the outside world. More so, I am always connected to my peers sharing their experiences via social media. If my friends and colleagues are traveling abroad or taking a weekend road trip to another part of the country, I often feel as if I am right there with them. I am sure a lot of you feel the same way. Whether we want to admit it or not, we know what our friends and acquaintances are up to at all times. When I sit back and think about that, it is actually pretty overwhelming. Last year, I gave up Instagram for Lent. I found myself perusing through the platform 8–10 times a day, and quickly realized that my addiction had gotten out of hand. For the first two days of my Instagram fasting session, things became pretty difficult. I used to work nights at a pizza restaurant/bar in Columbus, OH, and would look through the social platform after I had completed my shifts on Saturday nights.
It was always nice (or was it?) seeing what everyone was up to, and I made it a habit to take a look each and every Saturday evening. Once I deleted Instagram from my phone, however, I did not know what to do with myself after work. Those first two days were very difficult, and looking back, it is crazy to think that something so minuscule could be so difficult at the time. However, after those first two days passed, I actually found myself happier after my shift had ended. I was no longer worried about what everyone else was doing, and I must admit, it was liberating as hell. Now, I am not here to bash social media, and I am sure that that most of you are reading this article (Bueller?) on a mobile device. Honestly, it is pretty cool staying in touch with family and friends throughout their lives, and I am sure it is something our parents would have indulged in, had technology been up-to-par with their social needs back in the day.
Now that technology is up-to-par however, my parents and the generations above us are taking full advantage of the social networks that are now at their fingertips. Two weekends ago, I witnessed firsthand just how absurd the social world is quickly becoming. Let me fill you in:
On Monday afternoon, as I sat at a bar in the SeaTac Airport and drank my $12 beer, I decided to people watch for the remainder of my time left in the airport. I had an hour or so left until I was to board, so I decided to spy on everyone andeverything in that damn place. As I was getting excited to eavesdrop on some hilarious conversations, I quickly took note of a couple sitting to my right. Since they were actually sitting one foot to my right side, I had to go full 007 on their asses just so they wouldn’t notice me completely staring. In all reality, who really cares? But, I did my best Bond impression just to make sure the coast was clear.
Either way, as I sat there, I started to realize that this was going to be a completely new experience in the eavesdropping world. Not only had this couple not spoken for over five minutes, but they hadn’t even looked up from their smartphones. Not one single time. No questions, no changes in facial expressions, no laughs, just surfing; surfing social media and the worldwide web. What could they possibly have been looking at that entire time? And, if something was so important, wouldn’t one of them had said something to the other about it? As I mentioned earlier, I worked in a restaurant for nearly two years serving tables and bartending. It was one of my favorite jobs throughout my life, and I learned some very valuable lessons while working there. Often, I would observe families and couples eat their entire dinner without speaking more than two words to one another, all due to the presence of their smartphone. It was an unbelievable site, and here it was happening all over again in the airport. So, as I sat there with a slight buzz and a certain feeling of disbelief, I turned my attention to another couple about twenty-five feet away from me. Guess what? They were doing the exact same thing as Couple #1.
Then, I turned my head to the left side of the bar to see what action was going down over there. Guess what? Well, almost the same thing as Couples 1 and 2, except this time, only the woman had her phone out. As I sat there and observed, I sensed this man’s overwhelming feeling of desire to speak to his wife. He kept opening his mouth to say something, but quickly realized that she was nowhere to be found. I cannot believe I am saying this, but the third couple was actually depressing to watch. I was witnessing the act of disengagement firsthand, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
Speak! Say something! Anything! My mind began to scream as I witnessed two more couples follow suit as I sat there finishing my $234 Amber Ale. Truly, I had seen it all at this point, and I took one last swig before heading to my gate. At that very moment, I knew this situation had to be documented and shared, so I quickly jotted down everything that I saw in that past hour in the Africa Lounge.In an age of overconsumption and too many articles written on how to live your life, I felt that this one needed to be shared. Talk to one another, folks! Social behavior is engrained throughout history and it is in our nature to laugh, talk and speak to other human beings each and every single day.
So, do yourself a favor this week, and put that phone down when you are walking to work, waiting in line at Chipotle or sitting across from your significant other. You are not missing anything: I promise. Ask your friend/girlfriend/mother/father/boyfriend/cousin something you have never asked them before. Talk to your significant other about your future with each other. Ask someone a dumb question for God’s sake! Better yet, talk to your dad over some cold beers this week and put your damn phone down when you do it. I want you to notice the differences in your audience and their interactions with you, and trust me, there will be major differences. Honestly, just start talking to one another again: it is our only hope.