If you go on one diet this new year, let it be a digital diet, as espoused in this excellent article from the Independent. For the vast majority of us Generation Y-ers, this means one thing. You know what I’m talking about – the F-word, which is uttered far too frequently in our daily lives…Facebook. But also phones, and whatever other little gadgets connect to the Internet and magically drain away our time and social skills.
There’s nothing more irritating than when you are trying to talk to someone and they are simultaneously and unapologetically holding a BBM conversation or texting someone; nay, it’s just plain rude. If I receive a text mid-conversation, I will only reply if it is urgent, and apologising profusely.
One thing I particularly liked from the above article was the idea of
requesting dinner guests to leave mobile phones on silent in the hallway, just as medieval diners used to leave their weapons at the door.
It’s an idea worthy of some consideration. The presence of mobiles, like weapons, are something of an atmosphere killer. We are living distracted lives, and if we cannot even focus on the people around us when we are sat face-to-face with them at a table, when can we?
Interestingly, the kitchen at my residence in Lausanne is a perfect example of how erasing (more or less) gadgets from the equation only serves to enhance face-to-face relations. There is no television, nor is there wireless internet, therefore no laptops around. We have only the cookers and the table; and one another for entertainment. Very rarely do I hear a phone go off, let alone see one; I’m not even entirely sure what my housemates’ phones look like, and that’s a first. I’ve spent time with people who are so glued to their phones that I’ve felt like I knew the backs of their phones better than their faces.
Some of the best conversations have happened in that kitchen, whether one-on-one, highly intimate heart-to-hearts, or noisy group discussions, in French or English. A friend once told me that our conversations were so good she was amazed that hours later, she hadn’t even thought about checking her facebook. What does that tell us? That facebook does not come close to replacing real, living connections, though it does serve as an effective diversion.
Think about the times when you really enjoyed yourself, were really absorbed in what you were doing, in the people around you, creating the memory that you now recall. I doubt sitting at a computer, or neck bent over a smartphone, springs immediately to mind. Let’s face it, the majority of the time, the kinds of things you read on facebook are hardly profound, and probably do nothing for your state of mind.
Don’t get me wrong, if we’re talking about diets here, I’m definitely morbidly obese on the digital scale. If every hour spent on facebook were a calorie, I’d have racked up enough to feed half of Africa, like any other young person. I’m not preaching abstinence – every good diet is about moderation. Facebook has its uses of course; you’re probably reading this because you’ve been referred by Facebook. However, nothing will ever really replace being in the real, bodily presence of a friend, looking them in the eye, being really absorbed in the conversation and talking away the hours. With not a bleep or a notification in sight.
French version here.