I took a break from social media last week. There are three occasions when this seems necessary for me: When I'm writing fiction; when I'm taking a day off for no reason at all except to clear my mind (in order to write fiction); and when I'm visiting my elderly parents. I love social media, I really do. But I've learned to listen to my brain when it tells me that I'm on overload. Writing (and thinking about writing) requires intense focus. And so does spending time, as I did this past week, with my mom and dad. They are 87 and 89 years old and when I am with them, I think they should have my undivided attention. They've never asked me to turn off my various gadgets but it seems respectful to do so, even though my mom, a Math and Science major at Barnard College, is still fascinated with technology. In fact, she has an iPad which she loves but she's not addicted to it. She turns it on only once or twice a day to check or send messages. When it comes to technology, my dad, however, has thrown in the towel, even though he has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell and was a highly trained radio specialist in World War Two with the highest national security clearance. He can still communicate in Morse Code whenever he feels like it. (When asked by young'uns to demonstrate Morse Code, he usually will rattle off the code for "Eisenhower Is On The Way.") My dad was also an outstanding photographer in his younger days and could have made a living at it. He took thousands of images as the yearbook photographer at his large suburban high school, and his photographs from World War Two are first-rate. By the time he was middle-aged, however, he set down his cameras for good. When I asked him why, he said he was tired of observing life and not living it. "I'd rather go canoeing with you kids than take a picture of you kids canoeing," is how he explained it at the time. That's how I feel, some of the time, about social media. I don't want to document what I'm doing; I want to live in the moment. On the other hand, I want to be part of the technological revolution that defines the era in which I am living. I haven't quite figured out the perfect balance yet, but I'm working on it.
One Author's Life (Opinion)
June 22, 2013