[Ink on found cardboard with digital embellishments and color. 2019.]
The issue here (ironically expressed via electronic media) is the inadequacy of digital media to create a human interface that matches physical, face-to-face contact.
“BUT!!!” (I hear you screaming) “Digital media is great for talking to folks at a distance! Face-Time and video calls and…” blah blah blah… And I agree. When my daughter’s boyfriend was away at college, a video call before bed was the best they could manage. Granted…
But a great many people try to SIMULATE shared experiences, actual social interaction, with “digital tenderness.” (To borrow a phrase from Adam and The Ants.) “Likes” and “upvotes” are substituted for smiles, hugs, and genuine conversation. I know people who are STARVED for human interaction, but they search for attention and recognition that they exist on social media platforms instead of leaving the house and having a cup of coffee with someone or going dancing… (The latter is one of the best activities anyone can engage in.*)
I’m not disparaging social media. I truly appreciate the ability to connect with folks who share my interests, and I love being able to distribute my quirky creations to the DOZENS of folks around the globe who (kind of) enjoy them (a little bit)! (My artistic and literary efforts have a TRAGICALLY limited appeal in the tiny, mostly religious, culturally conservative logging town where I live… But I keep making them anyway!) The point isn’t that social media is terrible—it’s that online experiences shouldn’t be the ONLY experiences people have (or even the MAJORITY of their daily lives.)
What I’m suggesting (and this is by no means a new idea, but I think there are quite a few people who need to hear it) is taking a trip into the REAL world every now and then. Go to a concert, visit a thrift store or a weird local landmark, have dinner with some friends or family members, take a day to go to the beach or the lake, or go join a cult… Just do SOMETHING out there in the physical world where real people might be walking around.
Don’t be lonely. Don’t rely on social media for all your interactions. Go to places where people who share your interests might hang out, like the library or a comic shop or a Masonic lodge or a dog show or an LGBTQ rally or a historical museum or an art gallery or a corner malt shop that plays swingin’ tunes by the Andrews Sisters and Pat Boone… Get active. Become part of a community (even if it’s only a community of two or three people; or two people, a dog, a monkey, and an alien—whoever or whatever you can get to show up! DON’T BE LONELY!!!)
You’ll feel good while you’re out there doing stuff, maybe even get a bit of exercise…or you’ll have a terrible time and realize how much better things are in your personal space, which will make you feel better once you get home and can CONFIRM how great your space is. My wife and I love our house—but we still go OTHER places, too, just to experience the novelty!
We try to get out and do stuff whenever we can: see a movie or go to a concert, sit on the sand at the beach and watch folks play in the water, visit the local parks and landmarks (which was way more interesting than we thought it was going to be,) rummage through second-hand stores and flea markets looking for bits of nostalgia or books or bargains, or we try new restaurants every now and then… Experiences… And you don’t have to spend much money, either—just take a walk or a short drive or bike ride…something to break up the SAMENESS and repetition that life sometimes assumes… (When you get older, you tend to most fondly remember the NOVEL experiences, not the days sitting in front of the t.v. or computer screen…) Go out into physical world, and be conscious and aware while you’re out there! See and hear and smell what’s around you!
Because, although the interfaces for social media platforms are almost universally clunky and cumbersome, interfacing with the “REAL” world is still fairly easy… I’m not sure if it’s INTUITIVE anymore, considering how much time people spend on phones or tablets or computers (he says as he types these words with a virtual keyboard), but simple, direct, physical experiences, especially those that involve other people (or entities of some kind) are what our senses brains are best at processing. Now put your phone and your laptop in your backpack and go outside! Interface with the world OUT THERE for a little while…
—Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool)
*I’m envisioning my summer this way: lawn chairs in the front yard, a large cardboard box covered in black light reactive duct tape as a coffee table, glasses of tea resting on the multicolored coffe table box, my speaker tube playing upbeat dance tunes loud enough to make folks nod their heads to the beat (but not so loud that it bugs the neighbors or stifles conversation,) and a handful of battery operated disco lights placed strategically around the front lawn, all combining to create a majestic FRONT YARD MAGIC DISCO PARTY! It’ll be a big hit, I’m sure…
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!