I have an ongoing love hate relationship with modern technology and social networking sites since a Facebook ‘friend’ informed me that she was going to having a bath. I didn’t even know what country she lived in or who her mother was. I immediately went off line only to start twittering (or tweeting as my son corrected me) a few weeks ago. I was telling this to a writer friend of mine, Stephen, when he admitted a semi-addictive relationship with Twitter. “It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night,” Stephen said. I closed my mouth eventually.
Okay, I have to admit it; I have succumbed to modern technology and I’m still hopelessly in love with my iPhone but no, it’s not the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. You see, a big part of me just wants to be left alone.
My reasoning for joining Facebook a few years ago was for professional reasons. There were other reasons too. Real friends and folk in my life sent me invitations to sign up. I succumbed to their invitations and highlighted a few events now and then but when I started getting oinks and grunts from funny farm, and invites to play online games followed by hearts and angels and all sorts coming at me from outer cyber space, it was clearly a sign to debug and reboot my life.
Of course Facebook isn’t the only distraction on the net causing me to go into overdrive. Blogs, pokes, live feeds, updates, email, media, and now tweets also compete for my attention along with my family, my writing, the daily chores and the cat.
When our attention is being pulled in too many directions, we are left feeling overloaded, distracted, chaotic, spread thinly, without focus. But only we can decide where it goes.
Furthermore it does determine the shape of your life: what you pay attention to becomes your reality. If you watch and read the news all the time, you will become obsessed with the latest crises. If you watch and read about celebrities, your life will revolve around them. If you socialize on social networks all day long, this will become your world.
If instead, you choose to give your attention to something that you’re passionate about, something that you feel is important; this will also become your life. If you choose to give your full attention to your friends and loved ones instead of half-heartedly listening while checking text messages, emails and other updates, your life will be enriched in many ways.
To reclaim our attention it is necessary to limit online time and go offline more often. Being connected all the time means we’re subject to interruptions and the demands of others.
It is also necessary to be present. Too often we spend time with folk but are distracted by devices. Switching to OFF switches you to ON so you can give your attention to what matters most, what you care about, what you feel passionate about and become conscious of distractions that steal your time.
Last weekend I switched on my phone after I came back home from a hike with the kids around Dundee. Soon my phone went ping! I got a tweet. It was from an old school friend who I hadn’t clapped eyes on in over fifteen years inviting me to a reunion. I was so moved my eyes misted over. She found me on twitter. The love-hate relationship continues…Bet Stephen’s girlfriend has a love-hate relationship with it too…