Imagine this: a few years ago, you invited your friend Jim to crash at your place for the weekend. You had a great time together and decided to let your pal stick around for a bit longer. Jim still hasn’t left. You’re not sure how it happened, but he lives in your house, eats your food, and demands your time. The situation has evolved to a point where you almost forget that someone else is living in your space, and while you may not notice it, zapping your own energy to live your life. I take it you’d be pretty pissed off.
Now swap out the name Jim and a few minor details so that the story accommodates a social network. Websites and networks that were originally established to help us communicate and stay in touch have overstayed their welcome — and we let it happen. Facebook is the number two most visited website in the world on any given day (source: Alexa rankings). Chances are you’ve been out to dinner with your friends and their +1, a smartphone. You have probably Instagrammed a photo of your meal after taking a picture from every imaginable angle, and the whole ordeal took so long that your beautiful steak was cold when you took your first bite (I myself have crawled up and stood on a chair at a restaurant to capture the perfect shot and brag to the world about my awesome meal). Something here is so broken, and we’re starting to realize it without grasping how to break free.
Our online persona has become so vibrant that we almost feel excused for being passive in real life. What’s great about social media is that it allows you to construct and flesh out your life as you want it to be, but how often does the kid with 80 “Likes” on every status follow through and amount to something equally fantastic in real life? How panicked do we get when our phones are about to die while we’re out with friends, because we know once we don’t have a Twitter feed to distract us, we’ll have nothing to talk about?
We’ve all become so boring.
Our generation has chosen an internet connection over an interpersonal one. Because these social media networks are thought to chronicle what happens in the daily lives of our friends, it’s easy to think we’re excused from sitting down, looking them in the eye and earnestly asking “How are you?”. We are no longer present, missing the small magic of each day while we’re trying to think of a way to moan about life in 140 characters. Being busy and inaccessible is suddenly cool, and you get bonus points for making it look like you’re somehow having fun through it all. I think we’re all a little lonely.
The problem is that Jim has gotten comfortable, and we’ve sort of shifted our daily life cycle to accommodate him. We might not want him around, but we wouldn’t know what to do once he packed his bags and left. Transitions from that which we hold most fundamental are rough, but we need to wean ourselves off of Facebook. This is why At The Pool is important, it bridges the gap between online and real life, a sort of social media *lite*. It returns to and embraces the idea that
all of these networks were created as a supplement to your life, not to supplant it.
Playing the conveniences fostered by a smartphone-dependent world to its advantage, this quasi-network let’s you connect with likeminded friends and strangers around you who want a sidekick for their next adventure. We need to remember what’s important, whether it’s just exploring a bookstore and inhaling the sweet scent of coffee or going hiking with a new friend. Facebook won’t tickle your senses quite like real life can.
Tell Jim to go home, and get your life back.