The Greatest Gift You Can Give

Hey everyone,

Means a lot to me that you could take the time out of your busy life to read my stream of consciousness. I know I took time away from mine, which is difficult. What with all the endless scrolling and being on time consuming (and often empty) apps on my phone. It was a difficult choice but alas, I choose to be creative rather than consumptive. Wait a long way of saying: thank you for your time and attention (I’m working on my long-windedness ;p).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social media and how I use it. I find myself troubled by it to be completely honest. It seems there is something very strange taking place in our society in terms of our communication and attention. Are we losing it? Are we forgetting it? Are we evolving? Are we devolving? What is happening?

Yes, this is actually how my mind works. Be thankful it isn’t yours.

The recent pandemic certainly has not helped with this. Being pressured to stay in doors and avoid social gathers (for good reason) has resulted in us looking for connection elsewhere. Human beings are not solitary creatures, we are pack animals by nature. Tens of thousands of years ago, we survived as tribes and today we still require others or a sense of having others to survive. Tom Hanks in Castaway is a perfect example of this, with creating a friend out of a random beach volleyball. So just like a hairy Tom Hanks and our great-great-great ancestors, we too need to feel connected and in the absence of real and close social-interactions, we are finding this through our technology and in particular: social media.

What are the problems you may ask? Well, for starters, I really question how real any of what we see on Social Media is. Are the things we “post” accurate depictions of who we are? Some may say things like, ‘yes, this is me’ or ‘this is me being vulnerable!’. But for whom? Ourselves? Our family? Our friends? Or even more uniquely, our followers?

I find the concept of followers very interesting. What exactly are followers? Are they friends? Or are they something entirely unique? It seems that followers are similar to whatever it was celebrities used to have. I guess you could call them fans but now we call them followers. Or certainly people that are interested in you and what you “stand for”. But what do you stand for? What do I stand for?

I’m not exactly sure.

Herein lies the problem. Or what I think could be the problem. We are confusing our identities between our waking real-world lives and whatever it is that we are presenting through our social media accounts. I think there is something uniquely dangerous happening here, in terms of, where is the line? Who are we really or what are we becoming.

Let’s not circle the drain here. I say this because, really, I’m concerned about what I am becoming. Why else would I bring it up? I see that I am distracted by the buzzes, the beeps, the icons that take me away from what really matters: my time and what I want to be doing with it.

There is an interesting phenomenon that I have noticed in my own life. I always am chasing the moment that just passed. I love my life. I am truly blessed. But it’s almost like I don’t fully enjoy the nectar of life that is available in the moment. I am always just a fraction of something distracted. And when this happens, you miss things. You take them for granted thinking that it will be like this forever. But the reality is, it won’t. All things shall pass and all things are impermanent.

So what is the solution? I say, make the choice of which world you want to live in: the digital one or the real one. You can’t live in both simultaneously. You just can’t. One is the Matrix where things are controlled by insidious robots called Algorithms that want to drain you of your most precious resources: time and attention. They do this by distracting you with extensions based on whatever it is you seem to be interested in. The other is the real word, where you spend time and give attention towards people that you actually know, where you can hopefully be who you really are. People that you swear you think are driving you absolutely insane one moment and have you laughing uncontrollably the next. Family. Friends. People where you can speak and be heard. The choice is yours, you can alternate if you want to. But like anything, you can’t do both at the same time effectively.

Have you ever tried having a meaningful conversation with your partner while writing a diatribe against someone who made an inflammatory comment towards Beyond Meat Burgers? Probably not, but you probably have tried something similar. And my guess is that it didn’t go very well. You can only do one thing well at a time, human beings are not effective multi-taskers. Similarly, you can only live in one of these worlds, effectively, at a time.

Both take up the same resources: time and attention. And while I am not saying that you need to be a luddite and smash your internet router, I am suggesting that we need to be a little bit more present around the organic people in our lives that actually matter. And really, what I am saying is that I need to be more present around my family. Mark my words, in a world where distractions are infinite, the greatest gift you can give anyone is your time and attention.

Thank you for reading.

Robert Grant

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