extreme balance

My recent post on hyperconnectivity created a small discussion in the comment section that got my wheels turning. My friend Jason ended his comment with the line, "the older I get, the more it seems that many of the questions worth arguing about have answers that involve balance rather than extremes." He also stated his thought that technology is not at fault for our hyperconnectivity, but it is ourselves.

I think he is right -- social networking reflects the attitude of the user. I have discovered this during my ongoing love-hate affair with Facebook (and my hate-hate affair with Myspace). I discovered that social networking is something that can easily be abused -- but I am to blame if that relationship ever becomes abusive, not the tool itself. With great power comes great responsibility, right? And I can either choose to delete my account or learn self-control -- or as Jason says, practice "balance rather than extremes." I like that.

The Internet and all of it's applications should be arenas where we practice self-control (and expand the talkaboutable, as David Dark would bear witness), because, I believe a certain disconnect can occur if we aren't careful. That disconnection is tricky, though, because it seems to happen while millions of other connections are being made.

For example, it's so easy to forget how conversations really work in real life when we get so used to anonymous name-calling and racial slurs in online comment forums. Or we forget what money actually is while spending it with a click of a button, only to see a digital number decrease in an online bank account. Or we forget how to BE ALONE because we thirst for the constant sense of connection we feel while Twittering or blogging.

Of course, I believe God can connect to us through any avenue He wants. God could just as easily speak to us through Twitter as He could through a rock concert, a novel, or a beautiful 5.12b arete with an under-cling crux lit by the setting sun. And He chooses to speak to each of us in different ways. I have a friend who doesn't gain much insight or inspiration through being in the great outdoors, instead he receives through technology (specifically when ogling a curvaceous new Apple product).

So while being careful to remain connected to God's Grid, I don't want to be so careful as to write off anything my inner-Luddite hesitates to partake in. Although, I think I was given my Ludd sensibilities for a reason.

Do I sound too much like an old man? Is wondering about technology's impact on our connections a legitimate concern? Do you think the Internet is just a reflection of the real world, or is there something distorting the translation? Do you think it could be just as easy to find God's glory revealed via Firefox as it is to find it in Creation? Is that proven true by discussions in comments forums like this one?


Will Rucker said...

i don't think it is too big a concern. we could all learn to focus a little more on the effects the internet is having on our social normalities....and how the internet is having a negative effect our culture (in my opinion).

max. said...

If the Apple comment wasn't directed at me, it should have been.

I feel like I'm stuck in the middle. I'm a newspaper photographer. I'm supposed to be on top of things all the time. I'm expected to be tethered in case something happens and we need a photo. I have to be available. My BlackBerry (which I actually hate) doesn't even have to leave my pocket in order for me to connect to the internet via my computer. I could be on top of Max Patch and update my status on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. Two different ways!

As a photographer, I am always compelled to take photos of things. I believe that photography is my calling in life. The one on one interactions I have with people on a daily basis while on assignment could not be replaced by anything. Photography allows me to connect with people.

The down side to this is what I call a curse. I ALWAYS WANT TO TAKE PHOTOS. Digital cameras are great. Oddly enough, they are the same as cellphones and laptops. It's just too easy to abuse them. Turn it on, set your settings, snap, download, upload, caption facebook album, receive comments, etc. David mentioned in the last post getting excited when the little red line pops up with a new email. The same goes for that stupid red number in the bottom right corner on facebook. I actually like seeing that.

I've gone to beautiful places in the woods or parties with friends and came home with stunning photos, but couldn't tell you what the grass felt like. Couldn't describe to you the smell of the place. Couldn't tell you what conversations were had because I had to "document" the occasion. I couldn't remember how many stars I counted because I didn't. I snapped a photo. I'll let the photo remember because I don't have to.

In light of this, I have started leaving my camera at home.

Back to connections:

I went to walk Lily the other morning and was gone for an hour. I missed two calls from work saying that a photo assignment which was scheduled for 10am was actually at 9am and I had to go right away. I got those messages at 9:30. I missed it.

I actually managed to delete my Twitter account for various reasons. Though I still have my Facebook account, I also have an iPhone app that lets me check it while driving. I'm that guy.

I have more than one laptop.

I have 2 cellphones.

I can't remember the last time I turned my iPhone or BlackBerry off. (ugh this is starting to be a bad dose of reality for me)

Jason and Ben, I agree with you. There has to be a balance. There actually is a good thing about being connected in my business. Despite how I feel about it personally, and though my habits don't always reflect this feeling, being connected builds relationships, improves business, allows for things to happen that don't normally occur due to distance, etc...

And I know this has already been said, but what says we actually need those things? The competition certainly isn't going to give them up. We have to stay on the cutting edge of this thing. The newspaper biz is already a sinking ship and it needs to utilize every single outlet to deliver the news. Hell, we've even got headlines appearing on those digital billboards on the side of the highway. Good thing I was paying attention after texting while driving the other day because I looked up and the billboard (from my very own company mind you) told me "No Texting While Driving!"

max. said...

Every day I am overwhelmed with texting, emails, blogs, websites, downloading photos, uploading photos, iChat'ing, VPN'ing, etc. My coworkers choose to send me congratulatory emails for something I did from across the newsroom. I can see the back of your head dude! I could easily type a message on my BB and throw it at them instead of delivering it online. That would be funny. Last time I was in the Smokies on assignment, I came back to phone signal land and received 50 emails at once. I was only gone 3 hours. Yikes. That said, I haven't been able to find my balance because I am constantly being bombarded with this stuff.

Becoming disconnected is also hard when you have parents who constantly text message you or try to be your friend on facebook (i haven't gone there personally but i know people who have) or ask that you call every time you leave town but when you don't you get a text message in panic wondering exactly what time you may or may not have died. Whew!

On the bright side, I have actually started asking friends to STOP texting me. It was too much. I can't handle it anymore. I wish I was Napoleon. I've also stopped responding to text messages. Can you believe I actually leave my phone on at night and actually allow it to wake me up so that I can receive a "LOL, goodnight!"?

I'm rambling. I guess this was the first step to becoming less connected for me. I can't do it alone. The best way to remedy this is to (*insert gasp here*) go talk to someone in person. Get coffee. Make dinner and converse. Even sitting there in silence staring holes into one another sounds more appealing than ever using Twitter ever again.

I need your help with this. Next time you see me fondling my sexy black iPhone punch me in the face. Seriously. It'll be refreshing to remember what a fist feels like. Otherwise I'll just hear about it online somewhere in fake-world.


Anonymous said...

I love everything you wrote. It's so true. I know we have actually talked about this in person, so I feel better about typing it! :) You have often joked about your two phones and your handy portable internet capabilities. It's no secret, but I'm glad you joke about it, because that means you're not a robot yet, and you never will be. You're our best friend Adam who just happens to have so many connections and so many people that need you to do what they want done from someone whom they know can do it bad ass-like, that you just are bombarded more often. I'm sorry about that. But, I think as long as you stay aware like you are and remember that sometimes it's okay to through your phone out of the window (even if you go get it an hour later, dusting off dirt and little pieces of leaves and grass and then fondle it again like a little kid who is just reunited with a lost teddy bear) then you'll be better for it.
Anyway, what I mean is, as Ben and others have been saying, it's up to you. You can't control the world and it's invisible internets, but you can control yourself, and as ironic as it is, I think your comments on this blog is a good start and something we all probably think about too. Recognition is the first step, you know? Like in AA. You have to admit you have a problem, and if you think you do, then you have good friends who are right there for you and willing to punch you in the face if you ask us to! :) (I might just give you a hug, though, instead)
Love you, Adam, you're awesome to us....
Oh ya! And I TOTALLY know what you mean about taking pictures. The past few years I have not wanted to take my camera anywhere either. It's like, I want to document, but then I realize that I'm not paying attention to what's going on. Ya, that's hard.
Welp, see ya!

benjamin said...

So, I know the three of us have pretty much talked about all of this in person at this point, but I thought I'd add it to this discussion as well:

Adam, you bring up an important point that I thought a lot about, but didn't mention in my post -- there are MANY people who don't seem to have a choice in the matter of what technology they do and don't want to use. You have to have your blackberry for your job, and you have to be available.

One thing, I guess, that this necessity makes me wonder is: when did it become necessary. Before Blackberries, newspapers seemed to be running smoothly. You know?

In the business world these days, you can't survive without a cell phone and a web site. But 10 or 15 years ago, when these things didn't exist, businesses functioned. People communicated. Stuff was sold. Money was made.

But then the cell phone came along, and people started using them. And now, if you don't have one, you are "unavailable". Obviously, I understand the constant change and adaptation that must occur in business and in culture as a whole, but it definitely is a strange thing to take a step back and look at.

Also, I would like to point out that these technologies are often used in the most counter-productive, asinine ways. The other day, I was reading a blog post on Englewood Review of Books. It was an interview with David Dark, but it wasn't a normal interview -- it is part of their new series of interviews conducted via Twitter. They call them (Tw)interviews.

It is totally fine if they want to communicate via Twitter for an interview, although it seems a little weird to me. But what was so asinine about it was the fact that the interview was transcribed on the blog exactly as it would be read on the actual Twitter pages. @'s and #'s included. I couldn't even make it through the entire thing before getting frustrated and giving up. 140 word bursts don't work too well when you are giving a 900 word answer to a question. Ugh.

Also, I'm glad you pointed out the human responsibility in all of this. Specifically, a friend's responsibility. Punches are always welcome. Thanks, friends.