The assumptions we make about “real” connections


In the last few days, this Look Up clip has popped up on my Facebook timeline at least a half-dozen times. I finally took the time to watch it after reading the feedback of several friends, all of whom raved about it. While I get that the artist’s message is one of connectedness, I’m left feeling like he’s not talking to me. 

I discovered “social media” in the early 1990s, with BBSes and Usenet groups. Rather than leading to an inability to communicate with other people, I felt more connected than I had in, well, possibly my entire life. I didn’t have to worry about the social expectations and pitfalls of meeting people in unstructured moments in time in person: I could think about what had been said, and be considerate before responding. I could work through the various potential meanings of what people wrote to me without feeling pressured to respond in a certain way. The best part was that I could still choose to meet and hang out with these same people in person, having figured out a shorthand on how to interact with them ahead of time. 

Today, I rely a fair bit on texting for communication outside of my work. When speaking is hard for me, as it sometimes is, I’ll even text someone right beside me to have a conversation with them. What the Look Up video misses is the accessibility issue of social media. I’m nowhere near the only person in the world whose social world has opened up as communication technology has become more easily accessible. Cell phones, tablets, laptops – they’re assistive technology devices for many of us, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow us to use the technology to communicate on a broader scale. 

I agree that balance is wonderful, and making sure that you’re happy with your level of connection with the people in your life is important. Connection comes in many different packages, however, and for many of us, looking down sometimes helps us to be able to look up. 

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