A quest to tame technology-driven interruptions and distractions in my daily life.

A platitude adjustment

Between Hurricane Sandy and the shootings at Sandy Hook, I’ve seen hundreds of memes, Facebook posts, web vigils, and news segments about the human loss—and the digital things I am meant to “share”. These platitudes and busy-box actions are intended to be little ways we can all stoke the fires of awareness, but I see them as mostly meaningless distractions from real interactions and true reflections. We click it and forget it.

It’s not that these little activities are wholly bad. I just think they are misguided. Together, we buy into this idea that by posting on Facebook, by texting each other partial thoughts, and by dog piling onto ‘never forget’ and ‘it’s the government’ sentiments… that we’re doing something. I mean, I guess it is more that nothing. But to me, it’s not much of anything.

Of course, if you’ve read any of the other posts here, you know that I believe unchecked smartphone and social media use make each of us less connected, less aware of our feelings and surroundings, less able to have quiet moments of reflection, and less apt to endeavor into non-digital activities. So as a logical extension, I believe that we use technology for tragedies like we do for more mundane moments—to make us feel like we’re connecting or being productive.

So… what am I advocating? Good question. As with anything, your mileage may vary. See dealership for details. For me, I have the nagging sense that rather than just rolling my eyes at the endless stream of fleeting posts about these and other tragedies… I need to do more than not participating in it. I need to do something real and meaningful.

This past weekend—as the Sandy Hook news and reactions mushroomed—I was at the mall with my kiddo when I spotted a former colleague sitting alone. I’d learned a couple of months back that her brother and sister-in-law died in a car wreck while on vacation abroad… orphaning their two young girls. I heard she had dropped everything to move to be with them. We emailed about it once and I left it at that. When I saw her on Saturday I approached her to see how things were going. I learned that a family decision had since nudged her out of the immediate support system and then she lost her job here due to the time she’d taken off. She was visibly devastated.

In that moment, it hit me. A Facebook post is not enough. A well-meaning email is not enough. This blog post is not enough. What I feel profoundly is that rather than scattering my thoughts and words into a thousand ones and zeros, I need to devote an hour of my time to spend with someone like my colleague—someone right here in my city. A real conversation. Real listening. Real help. THAT is meaningful and that’s where I’m going to start.

And I’m not posting about it either.

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Comments on: "A platitude adjustment" (3)

  1. What you’ve stated is what needs to be said about our society, and how it has devolved into nothing more than sound bytes, banners, and memes simply to give the illusion of participation and caring.

  2. I, during the last days of the recent election, found myself overly troubled by the amount of strong talk being tossed around on social media- talk backed with little to zero action, I think I can safely assume in most cases. I admit to becoming quite distressed, disgusted even, pacing and throwing my hands up during emotional discussions with Dana after dinner- not about the politics at the heart of all the postings, but over the fact that so many folks have such strong opinions or feelings about one thing or another, but do not take any sort of tangible action in the real world.

    Politics, religion, natural disasters, national traumas- all create a wildfire of activity on social media. How fast and furious they burn. A post is not enough, its true. But I think, especially in cases such as the Sandy Hook tragedy, many folks just simply don’t know what to do- they post to combat the incredible helplessness they feel.

    So many posts are just noise, but I do value the thoughts and insights put out there by respected friends- friends for whom posting and action are not mutually exclusive- and often learn from what is said. I usually can’t post in the midst of major events- I do not want to add to the fire, I don’t want to try to be the voice of reason or play mediator, and, it never feels like enough. I, personally, cannot contain the magnitude of my feeling on these occasions in a little text box.

  3. Okay, realistically, part of the pacing and distress was over how downright mean and judgmental folks get with their opinions…

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