The online life of Facebook, Twitter, and cell phones are becoming our teenagers new identity, explains, Sherry Turkle, Professor at MIT. Teens identify with their online life more than their real life. They see their real life as ‘the boring bits’.
Teenagers and children of all ages live on their iPad, computer, and cell phone, and Facebook knows that. FB’s new commercial shows a large family sitting around a dinner table, the teenage girl looks down at her phone, suddenly all around her pops up her FB life: snow falls on the dinner, the table, and her family, her FB “friends” she has never met and does not know throw the football to each other around and over the table while reality fades into the background. During the entire commercial she smiles while she looks at her phone playing the same scene in a video that one of her FB friends sent. Her family and their voices all but disappear.
FB has replaced her real life, and she can only function in her online life. Her real life is “the boring bits” she wants to escape and avoid. Online life and real life are very different, and when she can only function in her online life ~ which she can manipulate and control ~ she loses the ability to carry on a conversation with real people. To operate in society in a connected way eludes her.
Partaking in a real conversation happening in real-time is impossible ~ even frightening. But she feels safe when she looks down at her phone. She gets a warm feeling from her FB friends. She is annoyed by real people. If she had any real friends before her online life, they soon disappear.
The FB commercial suggests that you can replace a boring dinner with your family ~ proven in countless studies to keep kids out of trouble ~ with an exciting life on FB . . . who doesn’t want an exciting life? Especially when you believe that your life is a bit boring.
It’s ironic that a forum meant to connect people becomes their downfall if not properly managed, like any drug or mind altering substance. Too much time spent in manipulated time on the web wipes our real life out of existence, harms us, and causes us to lose functionality, rendering us dysfunctional.
We must manage our drug ~ the internet ~ wisely. The internet is addictive. Nurturing our real life relationships connects us with our children, family, and friends.
The internet is an amazing invention of our modern world, and is helpful in a plethora of ways too numerous to count, but like all good things, it is our job to integrate these modern inventions into our life for our best use, and not to be consumed by them.
Teenagers and children aren’t the only people sacrificing their real life for their online life: Prof Turkle’s studies also included a mom picking up her child from school, and just as the child slips into the seat, the mom receives a ‘new message’ notification on her phone, the mom checks her phone and without looking at her child she waves the child away with her arm and says in a hurried tone, “In a second, honey”. No eye contact, no attention . . . addicted to the excitement of the new message which makes her feel important she ignores her real life and her own child. Picking up your child from school and connecting with your child is the “boring bit”. That is backwards!
Make a point to reconnect with the ones you love, and put away your electronics ~ mute your phone, then put it inside a drawer (close the drawer!), sit down with your kids and partner, your parents and friends, and just be with them. Develop a close relationship and spend ‘special time’ with each one.
Post, Tweet, and take selfies until the end of time, but make sure you put your internet life in the same category as the glass of wine and cocktails ~ and do not let them steal your real life out from under you before you know it. Leave the zombies on the big screen ~ don’t unwittingly turn into one.
Leave your electronics in the car and go play sports with your friends, meet your parents for coffee, have lunch with your spouse, connect with your kids. Smile at people walking by you on the street. Or meet up in the park and look at the vivid colors found in flowers, trees, and nature, giving your eyes, your brain, and your online life a much-needed break in the process.
My brother recently told me that during Christmas his 7-year-old daughter and her slightly older cousin opened piles of presents from their grandparents, and soon afterwards they were back on the couch on their favorite toy, the iPad. Toys and presents no longer hold their attention, and their imagination has been outsourced to the zone-pad.
My 23-year-old niece recently visited us and although she was very excited to see us and spend time with us, she was constantly on her fancy new phone, as if it was her 3rd hand. She never left it, not even to go for a dip in the ocean at Laguna beach. And she wasn’t raised with a constant influx of technology as our children are being raised today.
Kim Commando ~ an online techie who helps us navigate both the blessings and the traps found within our technology ~ reported on a mom who as a punishment took her daughters cell phone away from her, and as a result her daughter tried to poison her mom with bleach, twice . . . the first time the daughter was scolded, the second time the mom called the police, and now her daughter is up on charges of attempted murder.
Most parents have cameras on their cell phones and when they watch their kid in the school play they capture it all, but they often miss the performance altogether. And they rarely go back and watch the video. They are lost within the technology that has granted them a gifted life, being eaten alive by an elusive reality that isn’t capable of offering them true gratification or fulfillment. This, and much more was included in Professor Turkle’s valuable study.
In the same way you guide your children in other areas of their life ~ healthy foods to eat, what keeps them safe, teaching politeness and manors, etc. ~ help your children to understand what is happening in their online life, and how to live healthy while still connected and functioning well in their real life.
We are all discovering how to transform our life into what makes us joyously come alive, for most of us it is a life long endeavor. Figuring out our life’s purpose and how to live the life of our exciting dreams come true is like assembling a complex puzzle blindfolded. But we already have too many zombies on earth, now more than ever humanity needs purposeful, awake and aware people who are fully engaged, and we always will.
*A breathtaking picture of the Palm Springs sky in California.*