Monday, July 30, 2012

Is Facebook Changing Who You Are?


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 10:00 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 are affecting 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." (Shameless plug coming: my new book "Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life" from New World Library, will be in bookstores in March. Check out Chapter Three on People first, Things Second: The Digital Divide.)

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.
 
  
INVITE: Interested in learning how to Find Your Center? Join me Oct. 19-21 for our New Way of Being: Women's Self-Renewal Retreat if you want to join us at the beautiful Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness in Massachusetts! Peak leaf turning time! I'd love to hold the space for you to rest, connect with your needs and desires--and hear what your Wise Self most wants you to know.

P.S. Have a background in PR/Communications and interested in joining the all-women Renee Trudeau & Associates team this fall? Learn more about our Part-Time PR Coordinator Position.

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Photo at top: An artist's interpretation of being together but alone.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

Renee,
We are going down similar paths. There is a discussion on the IBM Alumni LinkedIn group about being on FB. Mostly Baby Boomer men who are being pushed into Social Media by family and friends. Yep, we like our privacy.

The discussion was spurred by a Forbes article on what it means to a perspective employer when you are NOT on FB.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Have you read THE SHALLOWS: WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS? It's a fascinating read and prompted me to take a month off of Facebook. Being away from those status updates has pushed me to think through the motivations I have in posting them in the first place.

The Journey said...

I haven't Caroline, but I'll definitely seek it out. I think it's really helpful for all of to be asking these questions and to challenge our relationship to screens of all sort. Thanks for sharing.