I’ve started noticing the beginnings of a trend that I probably contributed to in my own way: forced disengagement with social media services when in the presence of human beings expecting our attention. I see it in Twitter friends’ reports that spouses have banned Twitter use when they get home and I have seen it when my Mom and mother-in-law strenuously object to my phone being in my hand when I lose interest in the immediate conversation (or did I just not engage because I had my phone in my hand?).
The fact is that our engagement through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook is getting in the way of our face to face engagements with friends and family. If your family is anything like mine, we are spending less quality time with each other in person as we become more and more engaged with each other online and its a problem.
I have caught myself totally absorbed in a Twitter conversation or Facebook thread to maintain a simple conversation with my son (who has started to emulate my behaviour on his iPod Touch, reading his “messages”). This is probably very similar to what our parents faced with TV habits back in the day (ok, maybe radio for you older types). The result is the same: less engagement with each other and weaker relationships as a consequence.
In a way, it is worse this time around. My iPhone connects me to pretty much every social platform on the Web and between 3G and WiFi, that connection is almost continuous. That means I don’t disconnect between my office and pillow unless I physically put the phone down and leave it there. Maybe we should start being a little more self-disciplined with our social media use when we are home or out with our friends while we still have those moments? There is plenty of time to catch up with our Twitter and Facebook friends some other time. And if you only seem to have friends online, make a plan to meet them in person and spend time with them like that if you can. I find personal interactions more meaningful, myself.
To paraphrase the saying, you probably will not look back at your life when you are on your deathbed (or even in a couple years time wondering where the years went) and wish you spent more time tweeting. You’ll wish you built more block houses or played soccer more often in the park with your kids.