Upside of social networks: more ways to tell people what we’re doing. Downside: we are no longer doing anything. –Andy Borowitz, comedian
So first off, I have to say, if you don’t follow Andy Borowitz on Facebook or Twitter, you are really missing out. He makes me laugh out loud at least twice a day and usually so loud that Jeff, who shares my office (um, attic), will feel compelled to ask, “WHAT?”
But this is not a post about Andy Borowitz, or my office in the attic (more on that another day), or even Jeff, whom I’ve worked with at two different offices now (strange, huh?)
It’s a post about Popcorn Brain. Oh, now you’re intrigued, aren’t you?Popcorn Brain. It sounds both delicious and disgusting all at once. Well, according to John Tesh (yes, I completely loath that man and can’t believe I am actually referencing him in my blog, but my truck only gets a few radio stations so I was forced to listen. yes, forced).
Anyway, that digression was too long so let’s start over: According to John Tesh, if you are constantly plugged in to social media, email and the internet, you can develop what is called Popcorn Brain. This is where your brain can no longer function in the real world because it is so used to processing information in the quick spurts offered by the internet. You may even develop a sense of euphoria every time you hear the “ding” of your email on your phone or receive a new reply on Twitter. Yikes!
Now I am not stupid enough to actually be afraid of Popcorn Brain, although John Tesh did make it sound like the death of brain cells was involved, and I’d really like to keep all I have left. And honestly, I am not one of those people who is glued to my phone when I have a group of people who are sitting, in the flesh, right in front of me! But, I do admit to checking my phone too frequently when I hear it “ding” with a new message.
And since a large part of my job is to monitor several social media accounts, I often check my own accounts several times during the day. Also, some really bad influence (you know who you are) introduced me to Gmail and G-Chat, so now I have that contributing to my development of Popcorn Brain.
Andy also makes an excellent point about all the time we waste talking about what we’re doing, when in reality, we spend more time just sitting around typing about it on social media. I know people on Facebook (again, I’m never referring to YOU when I say these things–just to be clear) who spend more time posting their photos from the party they attended than the party itself lasted!
So I decided to do an experiment. I already keep my phone in the off position if I am out to dinner or with a group of friends, etc., so as not to be rude. But what about my own family? Isn’t it just as rude to my kids and John if I check my phone when I’m spending time with them? Yes. The answer is yes. (this was not a real quiz)
Last night I turned off my phone as soon as I pulled into the driveway. Then, to make it even more inaccessible, I took it up to my room. I then spent the rest of the evening doing all the same things I normally do–helped clean up the dishes, watched the world news, took a walk, had a few drinks on the porch–and I forgot all about my phone because it wasn’t there to “ding” at me! It was so refreshing! So liberating! It was like the Fourth of July, but without all the rednecks shooting off fireworks for three weeks in advance!
Again, I want to stress that I have never been a person to have their nose stuck in their phone all the time, and I totally think people who do that in public are rude. But honestly, I didn’t realize how completely mesmerized I have been by the “ding” of incoming messages during my own personal free time. I have even caught myself doing “quick” little work things just because I happened to see an email that could have really waited for the morning. (Let’s face it, I’m not doing brain surgery over at the alumni house)
Right before bed I checked my phone and sure enough I had a dozen emails and even a text message about today’s lunch. So I responded to a few and set my alarm. I’d say my experiment was a huge success. I’m going to make a point of not checking any social media or email or news links during the evenings now. From now on that is disconnected time. I’ll save the popcorn for eating.
(well, not really, because everyone knows I can’t eat popcorn with braces. sigh)