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When I Say Social, You Think What?



I guess I'm getting old these days. Not exactly pining for the days gone by, but wondering how we got to where we are today. Back when I was a teen and later a young man, I'd spend a lot of time with my friends and family. We would perhaps talk about things that just happened or plans for the future or even speculate possibilities. This actual connecting with people was a healthy thing. Friendship bonds were made and memories formed that last a lifetime.

But how times have changed. We live on computers and smart phones. We seldom see those people we call friends and perhaps even have some we have never met face to face. Now don't get me wrong, a bond can develop over long distances, such as what happened with me and my wife.

So now back to today, we are quickly becoming programmed like Pavlov's dog. For the kids reading, Pavlov found that from ringing a bell, then feeding a dog that the food wasn't what made the dog salivate, because after doing the bell thing for a bit the dog became conditioned to hear the bell, expect the food and drooled. See the connection? Our phone beeps and we jump for the reward of a "like" or "+1" or whatever the platform uses. We get a boost of adrenaline and endorphins as a reward. But I question, is this really a benefit to our lives? Is there a way to quit it all?

Well, quitting social networking seems out of the question. Think about it… if you met someone and considered dating him or her, wouldn't you find it odd if they said they didn't have a Facebook account? Immediately you might think, hey maybe this person is married and out cheating or has other scandals they are hiding. (If you're a Facebook user who doesn't post anything, the same creepy thing goes for you. We wonder if your account is strictly for stalking purposes.)

So what are the benefits? Since I've moved to Singapore I'd have found it difficult to keep in touch with family and friends back in Detroit if not for social media. There are even times when a group of us locally want to arrange to get together and the convenience of group chats make it possible to find out when everyone is available. So it's not all bad. On the other hand, there are times I'm out with someone and all I see is them on their phone and I wonder if that conversation is so much better than ours, and why bother sitting here with them if they are mentally some place else.

So what can we do to improve ourselves and still keep the fun of social networks? Well personally I rather like the modern Amish take on technology. They have phones but don’t have it conveniently placed. Their main purpose is the in-case-of-emergency usage and phones are placed in a shed out in the field where they can get to it if needed, but it doesn't come between them and any person that they are in the company of. So perhaps we could do something similar by just muting our phone when out with our friends, giving them our attention and with that they may even better appreciate our presence and we may end up having more meaningful conversations. Perhaps we could limit our time in the virtual world to make for a better time in the real one. Or perhaps you will unfriend me because you think I've gone and lost my damn mind. Whatever, it works for me.

Love to hear about your digital addictions and how you cope with them. Or if you're experiencing the problem of people who are there but not there, so to speak.


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