What takes us away from being present in our lives is not a matter of which smartphone application is on our phone, it is a heart issue.If you ever cross my path, chances are my iPhone will be somewhere close by. For me, my iPhone is far more than a device I use to make and receive phone calls and texts, the iPhone has become my lifeline to the world, keeping me up to date with the latest local, national, and international news. Social media applications on my iPhone such as Facebook keep me in touch with friends and family, along with businesses and organizations that I care about and patronize. And oh yes, a favorite celebrity or two occasionally appears on my news feed. At the risk of sounding like an Apple fangirl, the iPhone is one of the most significant purchases I’ve made in my life. But as any iPhone, Android phone, or Blackberry phone owner will tell you, the blessings of a smartphone can quickly turn, negatively impacting interactions with friends, family, and ones immediate surroundings.
The ease with which smartphones transport us to a virtual social sphere is mind-numbing. In seconds, smartphones can connect us to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where every click of the refresh button reveals statuses, tweets, and pictures documenting everything from what one ate for lunch to the birth of a child. The dizzying speed with which these sites share content can leave even the most mild-mannered of social media connoisseurs feeling like they have to play catch-up. The resulting mad dash to keep up with the social media Joneses transforms everyday mundane trips to the coffee-house into craftily choreographed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram moments. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see the luminescent light of a smartphone shine in a dark movie theatre, as well as the flicker of a camera phone flash strategically aimed at a plate of food at a restaurant.
In a Wall Street Journal article titled, “When Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Crash the Party,” writer Katherine Rosman chronicles the varying ways the proclivity to post onto these sites has dwarfed our ability to interact in a non- techie way at events (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304299704577504580404044036.html?mod=googlenews_wsj). Bevy Smith, host for various consumer brands and celebrities, told Rosman that she often has to coolly tell guests she sees reaching for phones at her events “Hey, Babe, that’s not allowed at Bevy’s table.” Soon to be married couple, Jacqui Stewart and Andrew Turner, told Rosman that they plan om banning the use of smartphones at their wedding by requesting via their wedding website for people to “Be Nice, Turn Off That Device… We want you to be able to really enjoy our wedding day, feeling truly present and in the moment with us.” Isn’t the illusion of sharing such intimate moments on a virtual plane what is typically most appealing to users of these social media sites, along with candid shots of everyday activities like outings to Starbucks? The line between what is considered private and public is incessantly being blurred by smartphones. Breaking up with significant others through Facebook statuses (not in person), tweets about delicate medical conditions, and Instagram photos of individuals in compromising positions are becoming more and more difficult for people to unanimously define as either personal or public, especially when these statuses, tweets, and photos reveal the senders location.
I admit to taking pictures of food at restaurants, Starbucks coffee cups, and recently, pictures of my MacBook Air. More often than I’d like to admit, my eyes are set on discovering”Instagrammable” pictures I can upload and share. I suppose this would seem a little less creepy and pathetic if I were a professional photographer or celebrity, but I am neither. At times, I welcome the shame that comes from individuals staring at me taking a picture of a food truck sign, it doesn’t deter me from taking the picture, but it does make me stop to think why I am taking the picture. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get a kick out of the reactions some of my pictures have stirred. Yes, it’s fun to capture quirky and crazy things on the streets of New York, it’s equally as fun to share in the joy and laughter that it provokes in other people. All of this joy and laughter does not disguise the danger that exists for me to fall over into the realm of the ego, where narcissism and one- upmanship reside. It’s here where the drive to share ones experiences is tied to an insatiable need to always be the center of attention versus authentically sharing ones life with others. In this corner of life, our ego’s twisted focus shifts our attention away from the precious interpersonal interactions we could be experiencing sans our smartphones, to a frenzied race to constantly update our statuses, tweet, and increase the volume of filtered photos we upload.
Prior to submitting your next Facebook status, tweet, or Instagram photo, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Who or what am I serving through the addition of this status update, tweet and/or Instagram picture?
2. What sort of attention am I seeking via this post?
3. What sort of impression is this post giving off about me? Is it a true impression?
In and of themselves, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites are fun and invaluable applications one can use to maintain, rekindle, and strengthen relationships with friends and family, along with providing a platform upon which corporations, organizations, and artists can build an audience. How we choose to use or abuse these social media platforms rest entirely on us.What distracts us from fully showing up in our lives is not a matter of which social media applications we frequent on our smartphones, it is a heart issue.