The top two things about a recently completed weeklong stay in Myrtle Beach were definitely the 4- and 2-year-old boys who made the trip our first true family vacation. They had a blast while navigating lazy rivers and jumping from queen bed to queen bed. Their dad, meanwhile, had an even better time, bonding like he’s never bonded, with nary a worry in the world.
Which leads to the next-best thing about the mid-September vacation — a complete disconnect from social media. No email. No Facebook. No forums. Heck, no computer to begin with. I left it at home. Sweeter still, I just as well could have left my cell phone next to the Mac. The entire trip accounted for just two phone calls (and, eureka, no voice mails!).
It’s not that I dislike social media, which CBC heralds in this issue for its networking capabilities. Or digital media as a whole. I can’t imagine being a journalist and not having the ability to connect with people so efficiently —which is saying a lot, considering it wasn’t that long ago (1997, for me) when editors and reporters somehow managed without email, let alone Twitter.
On a personal level, social media platforms, particularly Facebook, have allowed me to re-connect with friends whom I had not heard from in 25-plus years. I’ve learned of deaths that I’m positive I never would have known about otherwise. The sense of community that comes with social media is very reassuring.
My beef with social media is that it too often poisons our focus. When someone is writing on Facebook via Blackberry about the great time that they’re having at Olive Garden, in good company, how great of a time could he really be having? How good could the company really be?
It reminds me of when I would get chastised at the work lunch table about 10 years ago. My crime? Reading the Plain Dealer and supposedly not paying attention to my colleagues. That was apparently a no-no — yet a decade later we now accept the 24/7 use of our social media tools or, worse yet, some of the actions that come with it, such as texting and driving.
Two days after finishing a vacation that included nearly 1,400 miles of highway miles, I awoke to news that the Transportation Department had proposed to bar truck drivers from sending text messages while hauling hazardous materials.
I realize that social media can be a great thing. But when we have to legislate a trucker from surfing the Internet instead of worrying exclusively about the 12,000 gallons of gasoline that he’s hauling — with just a white broken line separating him from my family — we really have to reevaluate our priorities.