So for the past few weeks I have been ranting to my friends and family about how modern technology–cell phones in particular are truly the demise of civilization as we know it. Then enter Facebook, a networking service that I myself profit from and participate in … admittedly I am somewhat fascinated by it because it is a social study in and of itself– how people literally invite you into their very private, albeit sometimes mundane moments, expecting that you will be interested, or thinking that they will feel less alone if they tell you that they are doing things like getting plastic surgery or leaving their husbands—but are they really connecting the way they think they are? Or is Facebook, like the cell phone yet another way for us to delude ourselves into thinking we are growing closer– widening the world-wide gap and creating greater intimacy with our peers, our “network?” Another layer of effort and distraction, bells and whistles, clubs to join, virtual hello kitty stickers to plant on your friends, instant messages and on and on and on— what about the good old fashioned meeting for tea to catch up?!!!! What ever happened to that? So you can’t meet your old friend who now lives in Barcelona for a tea, and in that way, Facebook is great– it helps you to know where old flames, old acquaintances and people you sort of knew in your circle somewhere —wind up. But like cell phones and text messaging, which really bloody drives me crazy, is Facebook a time-eater that is literally taking us away day by day, removing us from our ability to interact with others in a quality way, in a patient way, is it compromising our patience and our ability to listen to our friends before speaking? Privacy! What about privacy? All of the information you post on Facebook is public domain. And anyone and everyone will know at some point, usually at lightning fast speed those incredibly personal, private, sacred facts you chose to mount on “THE (infamous) WALL” during that momentary lapse of reason you had when you drank a bit too much and pushed “send” or “post” for all to see.

Cell phones are like electronic bracelets, like the kind Martha Stewart or Madoff had to wear during house arrest. And we are all, (myself included) to one degree or another attached to knowing who called us … did anyone call us? Text us? What bell just went off? What ring? What should I be doing now that I’m not doing? Who didn’t I get back to fast enough? Are they wondering why I didn’t call them back yet, text them? What if I didn’t turn my phone off?! And it goes off during that speech or during meditation? And when it does?! OH, the shame and stress that creates! What about when you see someone getting into a cab, or you’re with someone who is getting into a cab and the cab driver asks him for directions, but he’s too busy talking on his cell phone and he’s just flat-out rude because he can’t multi-task well and he acts like the cab driver is interrupting him when he asks “where you are going?” … I mean do you even know where you’re going when you’re on a cell phone?! Are you aware of yourself, in possession of all of your faculties? What about when you’re about to cross the street and talking on a cell phone? How many times have you seen people nearly end their lives by stepping off the curb while traffic was still whizzing by? How about when people are in a restaurant or at the check out in a supermarket? What about when a server comes over to get your order, or the person behind the checkout asks you to swipe your credit or debit card, but you don’t hear them because you’re TALKING ON YOUR CELL PHONE or TEXTING someone. What about that simple, but all-important human interaction with the waiter or the checkout lady? What about building relationships with the people you can see right in front of you? What about preserving the relationship you have with yourself?! And don’t even get me started talking about the electromagnetic frequencies and the deleterious effects on humans that nobody wants to talk about. And the money! The money we all spend on cell phones and fancier and fancier computers that help us to waste time more effectively. Worth it? Is it worth it? Can you see? Can you hear how crazy-making this stuff is?! Cell phones and Facebook, taking us further and further away from ourselves, not bringing us closer, but creating layers of demands and stress and distraction that deplete our life force and so unnecessarily.
Cell phones are good for emergencies, but I am really starting to think that’s about it.
And Facebook? I love when someone from my past reaches out to me and we share a moment together–but rarely is there any real follow through, because people are too busy skimming the surface with their other 695 friends and sending them little pokes and hellos to say “hey” after all these years and don’t really, truly stay connected once they’ve “connected.”
Or do they?
Don’t get me wrong—I do think Facebook is cool because of the world-wide reach it has and how it is a vehicle to do good and spread positive or controversial messages (like this one) out to your fellows … and as I said, a great platform to reconnect with old friends. But does it help you deepen your connection to your own life? or does it suck you into living a “virtual” one?
Beyond this … please convince me that cell phones and Facebook are more positive than negative.
Yesterday I had this great conversation with someone in the midwest and before we hung up (I was on my old fashioned land-line, by the way …) and we started talking about cell phones and Facebook and we both agreed that we had a love hate (mostly HATE) relationship with both. Especially cell phones and one, two, three I said “I really hate cell phones and want to go back to what life was like in that domain 20 years ago and I wouldn’t mind if I lost mine!” Three hours later, miraculously the universe heard my cry and helped me to lose my new $400 iphone. :)
While I really thought it was supercool as cell phones and similar gadgets go, and I did feel disconcerted that I had lost something personal, I can’t say that I am entirely upset about it, or even really disturbed. In fact, I think I want to enter into a new chapter of life without a cell phone and make people find me at home where people used to answer their telephones, when they were in a safer, enclosed space with little else to do except for focus on the conversation and maybe, at worst fold laundry or clean the bathtub whilst chatting … no real life-endangering moments like crossing the street or sitting behind the wheel of an automobile.
So, I ask you … Cell phones and Facebook. Do they bring us closer and really help us all to connect? Or do they drive us further and further away from what really matters in life?
I want to hear from you.

3 Responses to “Cell Phones and Facebook: Bringing Us Closer or Driving Us to Distraction?”

i gotta admit, this post kinda struck a nerve [not really in a bad way!]

i’ve been on the internet since 1992. through the years i have made a significant number of friendships online that have developed into close, personal relationships “in real life”, so to speak. i attend a yearly convention where a giant group of us get together and celebrate the friendships we’ve made online.

i agree with you that there are people out there that don’t know how to really handle their usage. that can be said for anything, really - there are people on the road who shouldn’t really be driving cars. i cannot stand people who cannot put their cellphone down for TWO seconds to answer a simple question. honestly, i get that.

i don’t think the medium should be blamed here, however. facebook isn’t bad. cellphones aren’t bad. its the people that use them improperly who usually ruin it for the rest of us.

i received a text message form a local friend and i will be meeting up with her for some karaoke this evening. tomorrow, i am meeting up with an adventure group i have met online, and we’re doing a 7 mile hike through the cuyahoga river valley, rated some of the most scenic areas in the country. i wouldn’t have had these things if it weren’t for technology.

maybe my friend could have called me at home, but she knew i would receive the invitation faster if she hit up my cell phone. what does the form of communication matter? the fact is, i’ll be making a conneciton outside of technology.

on the other hand, no, i really dont need to know what my buddy in san francisco had for breakfast, but hey, it’s entertainment, right?

i dont think you should be basing your entire life’s worth on how many friends you have on facebook. on the other hand, i think that if you completely shun such things, it limits the potential for broadening your life experiences. there’s so much to do out there, and the internet can be an incredibly useful tool for this.

of course, its all about balance and personal responsibility, right?

wow, this was long. sorry ;)

February 27th, 2009

Hey Amanda,

Thank you so much for writing. I really appreciate what you said and please know that I don’t knock online activities completely— I want to clarify that I like many things about computers and the opportunities that the world wide web has afforded us all. It’s Facebook and cell phones I was really harping on. I believe that the internet has helped on many fronts. I avail myself of it all the time and couldn’t connect with fans here at home or way across the world in any other way! However, I do think there is a deleterious effect on the way we as people interact with one another and how we spend our time that comes from cell phone use (overuse and abuse) and mediums like Facebook.
It seems that there is a true dearth of balance where cell phones and Facebook are concerned for many users and I miss old fashioned interactions– I think people were far more aware and connected socially years ago than they are now … in the true interpersonal sense of face to face time.
Thanks again– love hearing others’ thoughts!

February 27th, 2009

The connection is great and somewhat necessary. It is not a bad idea to turn off that cell phone and shut down that personal PC for a few days ,weeks? The break from it is also somewhat necessary!

May 16th, 2009