Human beings have always needed connection: a deep-seeded, immovable need to emotionally connect with each other. Character connectivity–family, romance, rivalry–is at the core of every single (good) story. It is an intangible desire deep in hearts. Fine, it probably has some tangible psychological explanation. Give me a break–I’m not a psychologist. In fact, we need connection at such a base level that we can connect with well-written fictional characters. Berkeley Breathed (best known for his comic strip Bloom Country) said, “I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.” Why? We want and need emotional connection in all ways, shapes and forms.
But now “connected” has a different definition. Nowadays, “connecting” is jumping on The Facebook, writing an angsty-vague post about how “I hate it when she does this…”, receiving a lot of support from two people (who happened to see the post on their news feeds before they were overwhelmed with advertising), and making it known that you “like” some-guy-you-met-one-time’s inspirational meme about how “Life isn’t going to live itself so rock out loud!” with a picture of Nirvana rocking out to Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Here’s the problem: in a world of social media the emphasis is on media, not social. A good friend of mine and his brother had a long conversation recently about whether or not text-messaging is “synchronous” or “asynchronous.” Synchronization is the coordination of events to operate a system in unison. So is there a unified connection, or is there a disconnect in the unity of communication through social media? I would argue a disconnect and to be disconnected is to not be connected. Yeah. That just blew your mind. Obviously, you can get on chat, which is a little more Synchronous than “liking” that picture of Kurt Cobain rocking out loud. Also, obviously, not everyone is that guy who spends 8 hours a day “liking” 428 memes posted by 140,000 people who have each spend 8 hours of their day liking 634 memes posted by 650,000 people who…. I get it, but check this out:
In 2006 it was estimated that 1 in 20 adults had current depression. By 2012 that number jumped up to 1 in 10. More numbers: Facebook was opened on September 26, 2006 for everyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address. Wait… more numbers: Twitter was created in March of 2006. In fact, the Chicago Tribune posted a story about social media sites and their link with depression this year (2013) and quoted one social networker saying, “Just go out and have a social life somewhere else.” One more statistic: Dailymail.co.uk published a study on the propensity of Healthcare workers to be on Facebook. The study showed that over the course of 15 days, the 68 workstations observed spent an accumulated 72.5 hours on Facebook. Staff spent 1 out of every 5 minutes on Facebook. Oh, and that increased with the volume of patients and workload. Whoops.
It’s almost impossible to live entirely off of social media today. I run a small business. Trust me, I know the value of social media, and there is value. I just look around at all our “lives” online and it makes me sad, because the more “connected” we get, the more disconnected we are. How often have you noticed that everyone in a room or at a table in a restaurant is on a mobile device? How often do you see people pull out their phone in a play or at a movie (it’s rude, if I see you doing it you will get a shoe in the head) because they neeeeeeeed to check their texts or Twitter? I hate to break it to you, but that is disconnection.
My point is go and actually rock out loud. Real life rock out loud. Kurt Cobain did. You can too.
We ask the question, “What’s Your Story?” Ask yourself, is your story an angsty-vague post on Twitter? In 10 years, you probably won’t remember what it was about. Or is your story a story woven through the stories of other people in real life, with real experiences, with true connection.
(Yes, I see the irony of this blog and it’s posting on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Go outside and play a game.)
Coming Soon (well, at some point in the future)–Part II: The Socialization of Individual Thought