Endless Fascination with the (mostly) Trivial

This Friday evening through Saturday evening has been designated National Day of Unplugging. According to their site, “We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and BlackBerry’s, chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of ‘silence’ that our earphones create.” My 23-year-old daughter, a social media professional, advised me of this a couple of weeks ago. She’s taken the pledge to unplug for those 24 hours. Since signing on, she has been working to structure her digital life in advance for this step away, I presume to avoid getting fired or something equally dire. (Here’s the Unplug link she sent me, please visit!)

Next, let’s consider the game Phone Stack. With this digital convention, friends out to dinner together put their phones in the middle of the table and agree to unplug for the course of the meal, or pay a penalty. Our Kempt online author puts it this way:

…..As the meal goes on, you’ll hear various texts and emails arriving… and you’ll do absolutely nothing. You’ll face temptation—maybe even a few involuntary reaches toward the middle of the table—but you’ll be bound by the single, all-important rule of the phone stack.

Phone stack

For my own part, nothing beats Facebook for a go-to, all-purpose time and attention vortex. It’s so easy to peg my activity there in terms of connecting, gathering information about the world’s interests or causes, and cheering my mentors and friends on. Of course, that lasts about 90 seconds. After that, whatever there is that I call “Me” is gone, lost down the drain of never-ending posts.

Social media, via the vast array of devices that keep us plugged in from room to room, moment to moment, is the very latest in Opiate for the Masses distractions. Do the billion bits of intriguing, charming, alluring ephemera have you in their grip? When your addiction begins to degrade your social connections, when you are unable to resist urges despite knowing the consequences, if it makes you feel unbearably anxious to stop, then it’s time. It’s time to step back, feel the burn of withdrawal and reflect on the bigger picture. The world misses you. The world really needs you to pick up your gaze and get in the game.

And yes, in case you are wondering, we’re still holding hands with our friends practicing Lent.

~ Margaret


10 thoughts on “Endless Fascination with the (mostly) Trivial

  1. Your reference to Lent is apt, in that fasting for any appreciable duration puts some space between us and one easy gratification or another – whether food or texting. Perspective is always good. That said, so is using a smart phone to share a strange or beautiful sight with a friend or a small circle of family members. So I’m down with getting unplugged but I’ll do so with the idea that I will emerge from the day with a sharper sense of where being plugged in belongs.

  2. I went to a wake last night. There was a very long line of folks–a wonderful testimony to the lives my friend had touched. In the 3 hour queue, I thought I might hear snipets of tales of Fred’s life. Instead, I saw people interacting with their PHONES–playing games, answering emails, entertaining themselves with technology. Seems like something was lost……..

  3. This post strikes a nerve with me. I have 3 teenage and 20-something daughters, and I haven’t been able to get their genuine attention since these phones arrived in our lives, at least not without threatening to take them away and flush them down the toilet. Only THEN, do I have their supposedly undivided attention. But even then, it’s only for a very brief period of time – just long enough to say whatever was so dang important that I had the audacity to insist they put the phones down. But it grieves me that I have to be a bad guy just to get in a little conversation with my girls. And the irony is that my threats only work because I’m the one actually paying for these devices. Imagine if I wasn’t, I might never get in another word edge-wise! Maybe mommy needs to pull the ultimate plug… That would definitely be an interesting experiment.

      • Here it is, the next day, and I’m still thinking about this.

        I’ve been concluding that:
        1. I know I raised my girls with better manners than they can seem to manage when their phone is going off.
        2. It really is like a new sort of addiction. I’m going to share the “unplugged for a day” concept with them, and urge them to give it a go. Although I certainly can’t expect them to do it on a Friday to Saturday. That’s peak social planning time. 🙂 I’ll shoot for Tuesday/Wednesday timeframe. Baby steps, you know.
        3. Could this just be the new way of things? And the younger generations are on board, growing up with this as natural – the new norm – and the older generations just have to tolerate, basically be grandfathered out of it until we’re gone. And is this what it was like when the television came into ubiquity? How many people consider television in terms of being addicted to it? But I’m sure there were lots of people back then that lamented the loss of productivity and socializing in their society when people started losing time to that new, glowing screen. I wonder…

      • It’s a great thing to wonder about and experiment with. One gal’s addiction is another gal’s well-managed pleasure.

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