Running Into Facebook

Rich Tucker

10/5/2013 12:01:00 AM - Rich Tucker

As the baseball playoffs approach, beware: As some fans in Boston found out the hard way, snapping too many cell phone photos may be bad for your camera. Or at least your beer. Still, despite the chance of losing your phone or your beverage, we love to snap and share. Everything.

It was that noted wine drinker Socrates who opined that the unexamined life is not worth living. But how many friends would he have had on Facebook, anyway?

Americans don’t have Socratic problems. Our lives are over-examined. Few of us go anywhere without a smart phone these days. Whether we’re at a ballgame, a concert or a museum, we’re both there and somewhere else. Maybe many other places. We’re checking scores, checking in with friends, checking out of reality.

We’re never disconnected from texts and e-mails. If you want to turn off your phone during the movie, you’d better tweet out that you’re unavailable for the next two hours; wouldn’t want your friends to send out a search party when they can’t text you.

Meanwhile, every event warrants a photo and a Facebook update. We seem to think we must share where we are at every moment -- hop on Foursquare and let everyone know you’ve arrived at the coffee shop! Instead of watching the game, we’d rather snap pictures and post them online, so we can spend the rest of the night monitoring how many “likes” we get. We can always check the box score online and watch highlights on ESPN later, anyway.

Comments. We want comments. “I went last night,” “Wish I was there,” “I hate that team.” And the ever popular “I’m on my way,” which is apparently aimed at everyone except the person who’s waiting for you; wouldn’t you be better off actually getting on your way, rather than taking the time to Facebook that you are?

Nobody has time to work anymore, since we spend so much time handling our digital lives. Coming off as the cool, detached observer of world events isn’t easy. You cannot be everywhere, but you can act as though you know everything -- if you’re willing to spend your life wired into your smart phone.

It’s gotten to the point where even the professionals need some time off. Chuck Salter is a senior writer at the high tech magazine Fast Company, meaning he makes his living on the bloody digital edge. Yet he recommends what he calls an occasional “digital detox.”

“Leave the house without your devices,” he advises in The Washington Post. Also, “you don’t need to broadcast your every encounter. Or peruse every restaurant and concert option available. Or have the world’s information a click away. All that is great, yes, but you appreciate it more if you give it up every now and then.” Take his advice with a grain of salt, though, since his Post essay was actually culled from a recent e-book.

The digital world can be a dangerous place. It’s not just that hackers are trying to steal your passwords and sell you prescription drugs (and maybe both at the same time). There’s also a degree of physical risk.

I recently watched a women, walking while texting, bump into a no parking sign. She was embarrassed, but otherwise unharmed. At least it wasn’t a “no texting” sign. I, of course, noted the occasion on Facebook, where my friends could get a good chuckle out of it.

We don’t need to go as far as this couple did and disconnect completely. But we might enjoy life more of we simply lived it instead of endlessly attempting to document it. At least we could finish our beer.