If a Tree Falls in the Woods...

“So many young [people] treat life as a constant status update. It’s as if they’re more concerned with how their lives look than how their lives feel.” – Jane Buckingham


Okay, friends.  We need to have a serious conversation about cell phones.  And selfies.  And social media.  And how it’s making us vain.  And self absorbed.  And probably depressed.  And, I’m going to warn you, this post may make me seem like a grumpy, old man who can’t keep up with the times, but I assure you – I share because I care.  Truly.  There seems to be this collective mindset anymore that unless you post about it, or share it, or snap it, it didn’t happen.  Once in a lifetime experiences are no longer limited to that one lucky individual.  Anyone with a wifi connection can get in on the thrill right alongside him.  Facebook has this frightening “live” feature now where a map of the entire world glows with blue dots, each one a person with a cell phone recording themselves at that exact moment – in real time – sharing it with the world.  All it takes is a hover of your mouse to peek in on their drolling monologue or lit rave or epic hookah cloud.  It’s crazy and weird and annoying, really.  The more things this like pop up the more I roll my eyes.  Why must we share every waking moment of our lives?  With complete strangers!  Why do we think people care?  Are we that attention deprived?  Have we nothing better to do?  We are saturated in an age of cell phones and GoPros and other like devices that can go everywhere with us and capture our adventures that hit every mark on the spectrum from exciting to mundane, but here’s the thing…

We need to stop.  For real. 

So, I’ll be honest.  I started this blog post a couple weeks ago and just picked it back up today.  I more than likely had some thought out, well adjective’d tangent to supplement that last bit, but – as a modest handful of things have happened in these past few days away from this half-composed Word document – I don’t remember exactly how it went anymore.  Lucky for you, though I still remember the gist.

I was at a concert on my birthday – first week of August, a Thursday night – and there was this idiotic girl in front of my friends and I with her cell phone out recording a video of her and the crowd and the guy on stage singing.  She would spin around in slow circles, panning the event from all angles and – this was the most grating part – she would periodically turn the phone so that it was recording her and she would make this moronically exaggerated face of staged excitement that would instantly fade the minute she went back to panning the crowd.  I watched for a couple of passes, rolled my eyes internally, pointed her out to my friends and we shared a mutual look of judgment.  Instead of actually enjoying the show in real life, this twat (to quote my friend Jess) was creating the perfect snap to send out to her “friends” (I use that term loosely, as many of our “friends” on social platforms are nothing more than distant acquaintances we keep around to keep tabs on and live vicariously through.) to elicit likes and shares and likely a bit of jealousy from those who weren’t in attendance.

This whole “staging-of-moments” thing and “highlight-reel” posting business is killing us.  We’ve decided that our lives aren’t exciting enough as they are, they need to be filtered and posed and viewed from just the right angle, which would be harmless if…if…we didn’t mistake these moments for real life.  Discernment is key.  How many times have you scrolled through your news feeds and read post after post and looked at picture after picture from your friends and followers and decided that their lives were exponentially more exciting than your own?  You think, ‘My life is boring,’ or ‘My life’s a mess’ when in reality you’re perfectly normal.  By the same token, how many times have you been the one doing the posting?  Knowing full well you’re dressing up a situation to seem like more than it is?  I’ve been guilty of both, as I’m sure we all have.  It’s only natural when the whole basis of social media is to share and get reactions.  I think it’s okay to indulge every once in a while, but when we get wrapped up it becomes quite detrimental.  We can’t just go somewhere and be there, we have to let others know about it.  It’s our modern day “If a Tree Falls in the Woods” scenario: If a person goes to a coffee shop and doesn’t share a picture of their latte, were they ever really there?  

There's no quick fix for this attention-seeking hole we've dug for ourselves, but I think if we just slowly make more of an effort to be "present" rather than being concerned with how we "present" the situation for our followers to envy, we can slowly detach ourselves and instead of worrying if anyone hears our tree falling, we can just focus on the falling itself so we don't land on our face. 

Social-less Media

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction.  The world will have a generation of idiots.” – Albert Einstein


So, here we are.  February 7th.  A couple of months ago or, wait…maybe it was longer than that…I made a bet with one of my regulars about who would win the Super Bowl.  Months earlier we had made a bet about how many runs the Royals would make in the World Series.  I said 32 and he said 37.  I won.  The wager?  For my regular it was no Diet Coke for three months.  Lucky me.  If he had won?  No alcohol for Becci for three months (I am forever indebted to the boys in blue.  I seriously owe each of them a favor).  This time around, the rules were simple.  I could either have first pick, my regular the next four picks, then me all the rest of the NFL teams or the other way around.  I let him pick first.  He chose the Patriots.

Now, I don’t follow the NFL at all.  I’m Nebraska born and bred.  If it isn’t college ball, I’m not interested.  Enlisting the help of a fanatical coworker my next four picks were as follows – Chiefs, Panthers, Cardinals, Packers.  He got the rest.  The wager this time around?  No social media for three months – I’m not sure what his deal is with the number three, but it seems to be the standard for lost bet punishment.  Nevertheless!  Here we are. 

I was lucky enough in my pre-handshake negotiations to rule out my blog.  I pleaded my case that it was going to be my New Years resolution, and if I were to be cut off from it one month in it would be doomed, thus defeating the purpose of said resolution.  He obliged, so long as I’m not the one to hit the post button.  Fair enough, I suppose.  So, as I sit here tonight unable to scroll through the litany of post Super Bowl commentary on my Facebook or troll all the opinions of the “SB50” hashtaggers on my Twitter feed, it got me thinking about how I’m going to fill all that free time, and here’s the thing…

We are on our phones.  A lot.  Seriously, so much.  Think about it.  When you’re in line at the grocery store, or stuck at a red light, or at a boring party, or when you’re in bed but you can’t fall asleep – what are you doing?  You’re stooped over looking at your phone.  Checking Facebook or reading emails or double tapping pictures on Instagram or taking a selfie with your mouth open and your eyebrows raised and snapping it to thirteen different contacts.  Shit, maybe you’re like my husband and whenever you have a free minute you’re scrolling through posts on Reddit just for something to do.  Something to fill the void.  I see people all the time, out to eat and just sitting across the booth from each other staring at their phones.  Parents pushing their kids in strollers at the park, one hand on the stroller on hand on the phone – thumb mindlessly swiping from the bottom of the screen to the top.  People in traffic furiously swipe keyboard texting as they drift over the line, caustically jerking their car back into the lane when their peripheral vision kicks in.

Why do we fill every spare minute on those damn phones?  I’m guilty of it as well.  I’m a notorious red light texter.  When it’s dead at work I’m mindlessly scrolling through all of the recipe shares and eyebrow selfies and hashtags and ranting posts on my news feed.  It’s just become a part of the routine.  For as “social” as this media is, it’s effect is the opposite.  People don’t talk anymore, they text.  Instead of making small talk with the stranger next to them at the DMV, they snap a picture of their bored face to a dozen friends.  Getting people to interact with each other in public anymore is like pulling teeth.  Why, though?  When did we become so detached?  When did what everyone else is doing become more important than the current moment?  It’s amazing how far technology has come in such a short length of time, but the faster it progresses the more I wish our reliance on it lessened.  Especially when it comes to the mindless filling of free time.  To sound one hundred percent trite, our time is precious.  Why waste it hunched over, eyes glued to a screen?

The next three months may be a struggle for me.  I’ll have to find other ways to bide my down time, but perhaps this is for the best.  While I doubt very much that my social media abstinence will make even a smidgen of a dent in the grand scheme of things, it just may – for at least three months, anyway – force me out of my comfort zone and the next time I find myself alone in public with time to kill perhaps I’ll make a new friend instead of a crick in my neck.