Society Unplugged: Enrich Conversation, Lessen Digital Distraction

Online, I have almost 1,400 Facebook friends, but in reality I often go to bars alone.

When I find myself solo in social settings, my routine is consistent: show my identification to enter, purchase one cold draft, retreat to a side table and browse social media websites on my smartphone until I’ve finished my brew.

Nobody approaches me or asks what I’m doing. I blend into the wooden paneling and become a chameleon hiding among the masses.

In a sense, I realize that I’m often using my cellphone to escape my reality, whether I’m in the bar, the library, the classroom or in line to buy groceries at the store.

Every day, I see others doing what I’m doing next to my drink.

We’re living inside our screens rather than talking to the people around us or engaging in our current situations. But checking our phones has become so normal that it often doesn’t register in our minds.

I almost expect someone to check his phone at least once when I’m with him.

Our technology has become a pseudo security blanket that we use to hide when we become bored, uncomfortable or nervous.

We use it to celebrate, grieve and everything in between.

But this security blanket isn’t warm or comforting like plush. Instead, it is ice-cold and unforgiving.

I think I’d understand why we retreat into our phones if it empowered us with a sense of safety and protection. But often it riddles us with senses of isolation and insecurity.

As I scroll through social media, I often unconsciously compare myself to the characters performing on my chosen platform’s newsfeed. I see my friends post about success, uploading photos with our other comrades and joking on each other’s content.

Then I look up and remember that I’m alone in a bar.

Huh? Excuse me? Oh. Yes, waitress. I will take that second beer, actually.

I think we all know there’s a difference between real life and what we see online. However, I fear that the line is becoming increasingly blurred.

Social media is often a realm of narcissistic self-porn, where people share articles, post photos, make announcements and more – all for the sake of approval and endorsement.

But life is too vivid to be condensed to 140 characters or captured in a photograph.

The rich complexities of our world are what make it worth existing in. Breathtaking views are best unfiltered and intimate moments serve fonder as memories.

It’s time that we start holding each other accountable for the amount of time we spend with our technology. It might be time to interrupt a friend browsing Facebook at dinner or scrolling down Twitter in a classroom full of students.

We should disable our devices, even if just for a night out, and reconnect with the moments that matter.

I check my phone, pay my tab and pedal home. Once at my apartment, a lighted cord charges my phone and I check it one more time before jumping into bed.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 16, 2015 print edition of The Echo.

image via koreabizwire.com

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