I was too busy to notice when it happened that Wed., Nov. 7 was National Stress Awareness Day. It was sandwiched in between the Hurricane Sandy/Election Day doubleheader and the Hurricane Sandy encore, which included not only a bitchin’ sinus infection, but a nor’ easter that started mid-afternoon on Nov. 7 and quickly dumped enough snow in our area to essentially erase any real work until mid-morning the next day.
There was no time – and hasn’t been for a while – to casually surf through Facebook and Twitter. Not when there are things to write, conferences to organize, and a volunteer project that just doesn’t know when to go away.
But lately, I feel like I’ve been seeing more and more signs – well, three to be exact – that even when you do have the time, and perhaps even inclination, to while away the hours on Facebook and Twitter, there’s a trend toward unplugging, or at the very least, trying to find balance in an overly socially networked life.
It’s as though, having gone through the halcyon days where everything was suddenly shareable, so we shared just because it was possible, we’re now becoming more judicious about the degree to which we share, and the degree to which we want to consume what other people are sharing. Facebook may talk about the benefits of a more open and connected world, but many of us are sensing that this brave new world needs a few guardrails.
For those of you who think I’m implying that social networking is over, it’s far more nuanced than that. The trend I’m identifying is about managing social networking so that each of us can feel that its place in our lives is appropriate, rather than an enormous, not-always-beneficial time-suck. And this is only a dawning awareness. It’s like learning for the first time that, no matter how good those Doritos may taste, eating them endlessly isn’t a great idea.
Case in point: a post some friends (on Twitter, natch), pointed to from a technology exec named Adam Brault this week. The topic? What he learned from his decision to quit Twitter for a month. It’s a long, intriguing post; the paragraph that most hit home for me was this:
“I’ve realized how Twitter has made me break up my thoughts into tiny, incomplete, pieces—lots of hanging ideas, lots of incomplete relationships, punctuated by all manner of hanging threads and half-forked paths. I am perfectly fine with unfinished work—in fact, I doubt I’ll ever be a better finisher than I am a starter. But I’ve found that my greatest joy, deepest peace, and most valuable contributions come from intentionally choosing where to let my focus rest.”
Though Brault is now back on Twitter, his self-imposed temporary Twitter ban has made him decide to, “put more uninterrupted thought into things one relationship, one idea, one piece of writing at a time.”
And then there’s the 2013 trends report just published by JWT, which points to what might be called “The New Prudence” in several of its top ten trends: ” Play As a Competitive Advantage,” “The Super Stress Era,” and “Going Private in Public” -- the latter of which can best be summed up as learning how to maintain some privacy in an increasingly public world. To me, all three of those trends are about an awareness of the need to unplug, destress, and keep something for yourself.
In the journalism world, they say that anything that comes in 3s is a trend, so try this on for a third: the reluctance my kids sometimes have about posting pictures and other information about them on Facebook. And, no, it’s not just the 14-year-old, who is trying to establish his own identity and hates seeing Mom pop up in his Newsfeed. I’m also hearing this from my eight-year-old, who is years away from having a Facebook account and yet has enough awareness to realize how easily pictures and anecdotes about her life can be shared.
Surely, I’m not alone in having kids whose first reaction when I take a picture is: “Are you going to post this?” It makes one wonder if today’s children will be more fiercely protective of their privacy because, in an eternally public world, they never had it the way older generations did in the first place. As for the rest of us, we’ve had to learn it.