Sunday, September 27, 2015

How Being Uplugged Can Make You Plugged In

How being Unplugged can make you Plugged In.

I wake up in the morning with my cell phone in my hand and the dim glow of the phone screen in my eyes to greet me as I begin my day. I get up out of bed and the first thing I do is jump from the small screen of my phone to the much larger screen of my computer, which is kept powered 24/7. I check in with my facebook groups and read all the posts that were posted while I was sleeping. After that I go ahead and post new topics on all my groups (I must have about a dozen or so). From there I go back to my cell phone while I eat breakfast and play my wordfued and yahtzee games. I am so addicted to these games. I play them all day long at every meal and whenever I am waiting in a line or just have free time.

On my drive to work I keep my phone on and turn the volume up as far as possible and listen to my Pandora radio station filled with some great guitar driven alt-rock tunes. After work I cruise through the grocery store with my ear buds in my ears while I talk to a multitude of friends and family. When I’m not talking with someone I’m texting or messaging them.

Its non-stop social networking for me… facebook, twitter, snap-chat, linkedIn, google+, tumblr, pinterest, instagram, flickr, vine, tagged,, skype… you name it I’m on it. I never stop. Funny thing is I haven’t picked up the lingo… I never use IMHO, B4N, IRL or any of the lingo… but I know what it all means. As much as I am plugged in to the internet and social media I still prefer to at least spell my words out in full. I guess that is my way of remaining connected to communicating on a fuller level.

I like seeing “likes” on my posts. Sometimes I count how many likes my posts get and I even try to word my posts so that I get more likes than the other posts. I just have to be “liked” more than anybody else out there.

I have more than 11,000 friends on my facebook page. I accept every single friend request I get. It makes me feel good to be so well liked and to have all these friends online. But these friends only exist while I am plugged into the internet. Once I turn my phone or computer off they do not exist. Away from the internet I have maybe only a dozen friends or so and my family… but I don’t count my family as friends and the only time I talk to my family is when I see them on facebook or on messenger.

After thirteen years of living this way I decided to try and experiment and just turn everything off… my computer, cell phone, tablet, laptop… it was all turned off… powered down. All of a sudden I felt this quietness fall upon me. I felt so alone and I actually grew bored. Me bored? I hadn’t been bored once in the past thirteen years. The internet had kept me entertained from sun up to sun down everyday. After about two hour I took hold of my cell phone but didn’t turn it on. I just held it in my hand and it felt so comfortable. I was so tempted to turn it on but I didn’t. Next I sat at my desk and stared at the blank screen of my computer. I sat there for 15 minutes just staring at the nothingness. I became so aware of the “nothingness” in my life at this point. Without my internet I simply had nothing.  I managed to make it through the day without the internet. However I didn’t talk to one person throughout the day as I’m not used to actually talking with people, I’m much better texting or messaging. But face to face, I just don’t do that.

I went to bed with phone, computer and everything still turned off with the intention of reconnecting in the morning. I arose at 7:00 am as usual and got I couldn’t find my phone. This was the first time in years that my phone was misplaced. I almost went into a panic. “What will I do without my phone?” I looked under my bed, my backpack, my pants pockets, and my briefcases. It was absolutely nowhere to be found. I almost wanted to cry. My phone is my lifeline. Okay, I accepted the fact that my phone was gone so I sat at my desk and felt the comfort of my computer. In front of my computer I can reconnect with my world, send a message to my sister and visit with my thousands of friends. But I just sat there in front of my darkened computer. I wanted to turn it on but something was preventing me. I just thought to myself these thousands of friends online aren’t really real friends of mine. Yeh maybe a handful of them are friends but the other 10,995 aren’t friends at all, they’re just part of my self-imposed popularity contest.

I sat there thinking about my real friends… the ones I was friends with before there ever was an internet. The ones that I got in trouble with, the ones I laughed and cried with. Those friends. I had been several months since I last actually saw my friend Lisa or Robert in person. Oh yes, I’ve kept in touch with them. Last year when Lisa was in the hospital with an infection I left her a message on her facebook page to express how sorry I was that she was sick and that my thoughts and prayers are with her. I didn’t even visit with her while she was sick. When Robert got his promotion on his job I sent him an email to congratulate him and wish him the best. I even sent this clever little image with balloons and smiling faces. 

I realized that in the last thirteen years I’ve let my life slip away from me and for what 11,000 people that I don’t even know! I ended up spending the next six days away from the internet or any social media and reconnected with my friends and my family and actually spoke with each of them face to face… even hugs were exchanged. I almost forgot what a hug felt like.

When I finally got back online I decided I was going to cut my online time in half. Afterall before the internet ever happened I would spend time with my friends, we’d go out and enjoy a cup of tea. If I was expecting an important phone call I waited at home for the call. Back in the 70’s and 80’s we did not have the world attached to us in the form of a cell phone everywhere we went and we did just fine. We survived without social media following us everywhere we went.

Nowadays my phone is turned off more than it’s on. I only turn it on when I want to make a phone call or if I do have an important call coming in. But once I receive the call the phone is turned off. I spend maybe two hours a day on the phone playing my yahtzee and wordfued. As for other social media maybe an hour day and that’s it. No more 24/7 and by the way now I have something like 350 friends on facebook. I only accept friend requests from people I actually know.

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