Last Saturday, after an early morning family walk and outing, I came home, showered, put away the groceries and posted the following on my personal Facebook page: "Early morning family hike around east Town Lake Trail (beautiful rowing on calm waters!), explored new buildings/architecture downtown and enjoyed tacos at Galaxy in Clarksville, all before ten a.m.--it's amazing what can happen when you rise with the sun!
A short while later, I felt off, slightly sick to my stomach and sensed a strange almost "warning" sensation roll through my body.
During lunch with my husband and son, I asked, "Why did I just do that?" Was I feeling lonely and seeking acknowledgment, was I wanting to illustrate a value--I am a big advocate for the healing power of nature--was I wanting to look cool or hip with the family set (yes, we spend a lot of time downtown--look at us!) or was I slipping into a new habit of mindlessly hopping on Facebook more than I ever have before?
Dr. Sherry Turkle, former WIRED cover girl and author of Alone Together studies the social and psychological effects of technology. (Watch her famous TED talk here). One point Sherry made--that I can't shake--is that social media/technology is not just changing how we interact, it's changing who we are. There's a danger with us only showing the "shiny versions" of ourselves. The hip highlights of our lives. This way of being with each other is affecting how we perceive ourselves and one another. We're messy, peanut-butter covered, sometimes irritable and often awkward, inappropriate and raw humans --not Pinterest pictures.
In the airport traveling earlier this summer, I picked up the Atlantic Magazine issue, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" No, I don't think Facebook is making us lonely.
But, we may be making ourselves lonely by substituting surface-level, virtual high-fives for real time, heart-felt, "warts and all," conversation. Social media can give us the illusion that we're connecting but we're going broad--not deep. And it's leaving many of us (whether we realize it or not) void of real connection. It can be a great tool for the self-employed, community organizing and for keeping in touch with old classmates or colleagues in NY or Munich, but it isn't a substitute for real friendships (many research studies reveal that people who have confidants they regularly connect with are actually healthier and live longer).
Last summer, I spent almost a month researching what overuse and misuse of technology --TV, Internet, iPhones, video games, social media--is doing to our hearts and spirits; how it's affecting our emotional health (the findings, particularly around boys and video games and Internet porn were alarming). I also explored how our habits areaffecting who we are and how we connect when we're not online. Many are sharing they feel so speeded up from always being plugged in, they're finding it harder to be present and just "be." And when I asked what derails your family’s sense of peace and well-being in everyday life, more than 100 respondents said overuse and misuse of technology was the number one saboteur.
Last week, I attended a content strategy meeting for entrepreneurs where the speaker said our businesses should each be disseminating 403 pieces of information annually to our target audience. As I watched the 55 attendees furiously adding this "to do" item to their iPhone task lists, I felt a chill go down my spine as I quickly calculated what this tidal wave of tweets, posts and articles would look and feel like if every business owner on the planet took this counsel to heart.
Why is all this so triggering for me (yes, I admit it is!)? I spend a lot of energy helping women/men around the US discover how to tether and anchor within themselves--how to find their center in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. As I life balance teacher, I'm passionate about supporting people in finding more harmony and peace in their everyday lives and I believe our growing addiction to social media is contributing greatly to our feelings of disconnect and unhappiness.
Most of us have a love/hate relationship with these tools. I don't think the answer is unplugging completely (although I applaud those who have the courage/ability to do this) but for me my recent experience and observation made me want ask and sit with some big questions. To pause before I post (or even get online). And to observe how I feel before and after I enter the Facebook circus.
My mom's words, "Just because everyone else is jumping off the cliff into the sea, doesn't mean you have to" --echo in my mind as I explore this topic.
My friend Leah told me she recently had a rare girls night out dinner with her neighbors. After being seated at the restaurant, everyone at the table picked up their iPhones and started texting their husbands, taking photos and tagging one another and updating their FB status, while Leah sat quietly in disbelief. Napkin in lap, wine glass full, candles flickering, she was ready for heartfelt conversation--but it seemed the allure of connecting with a larger party was superseding the one that was happening in the moment.
Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized life balance coach/speaker, author of The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life (February 2013/New World Library). Join Renée Oct. 19-21 at Kripalu Yoga & Wellness Center for A New Way of Being: Women's Self-Renewal Retreat. www.ReneeTrudeau.com