Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Social media: Have we forgotten the “real” world?

At a social media seminar I attended this week in Vancouver, one of the presenters said: “The real world is so key.” She was referring to live-blogging events. I had to laugh at the irony. We have to be reminded to participate in activities that occur beyond cyber-reality? How sad.

As a writer and communicator, I firmly acknowledge the value of the Internet and social media in connecting with others and sharing information. But if this activity ends up alienating and isolating us from the flesh-and-blood world, it’s ultimately substracting from, rather than adding to, our lives. Do we chat with a near-stranger online, or visit a real friend face-to-face in a cafe? Do we choose to email rather than phone someone? Are personal encounters diminishing, replaced by Tweets and cyber-dialogue?

I think of family trips we took when I was a child. While driving through spectacular scenery, from the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert in the U.S. to the orange-red canyons and mesas of Arizona, my mom had to repeatedly urge my sisters and I to look out the window and admire the view. We were often too engrossed in some card game or crossword puzzle in the back seat to even notice what was around us. Unwittingly, we were shutting out the world and our relationship to nature. (This was many decades before the term “nature deficit disorder” was coined.)

Social media can create the same real-life siloing. On the same night as the seminar, I attended a talk and reading by musician/author Sylvia Tyson at the Festival of the Written Arts in Sechelt, BC. She read from her new novel Joyner’s Dream, which reinforces one family’s connection to music through multi-generations. In the Q&A afterwards, someone asked Tyson if she was on Facebook.

“I’m one of the original Luddites,” she replied. (That was a no.) Applause followed from at least one-quarter of the sold-out audience of several hundred. I assumed that those who clapped were honouring the value of person-to-person sharing, the kind of connection that Tyson created that night through her spoken word and recorded music.

I don’t advocate shunning the digital world. Let’s just keep it in perspective. To me, nothing beats the unadulterated, non-enhanced connection, in person, with people and nature. Once we’ve stopped valuing that relationship, and making time for it, we might as well become heartless cyborgs.

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August 6, 2011 at 10:49 am Comment (1)