Social networking is ruining my summer.
Warm weather is supposed to be accessorized by lackaday, by a breezy sensibility best enjoyed with a frosty tall boy in one hand, the sloppy product of a back-yard barbecue in the other. You're supposed to perch on a saggy lawn chair, swatting at mosquitoes and waiting for your turn to step up to the beer-pong table and dominate — or at least brag drunkenly about how you're about to. Instead, I find myself struggling to balance my beer between my knees and my overstocked paper plate on my thigh as I furiously poke at my BlackBerry.
I have responsibilities, you see, an audience of anxious voyeurs who are waiting, breathlessly, for me to update my Facebook status.
Or so you might think by the fervor with which I clutch my cell phone, desperately typing away. "Sara loves the summer!" "Sara is eating a burger with friends!" "Sara is alienating everyone at this party by obsessively monitoring the Internet!"
Gone it seems are the days when we could simply live, when we didn't have to catalogue our every movement and monitor others, or upload our photos the moment they downloaded, tagging and un-tagging, making sure to put on a good show. You know, the days when you could put down the pencils, the books, the iPhones, and just relax.
Instead, in this age of tweeting and blogging and status-ing, our priorities seem to have shifted from having a good time to filling up our moments with frantically telling the world about what a good time we're having. Or would be, if we weren't so busy typing.
I know I'm not alone in my obsession — or even hatred, for that matter, of this technological overload. Earlier this summer, I didn't have to turn on the news, or even look out a window, to know what it was like outside. A maelstrom of furious tweets and updates by my social-networking connections kept me up to the minute on the situation outdoors. "It's raining!" "OMG, still raining!" "Holy shit, is that the sun? Nope, still raining!" "DEAR GOD IT'S STILL RAINING."
Who likes this? Do you? Click on "like" to tell me that you like my update on the weather! Re-tweet it! Link to it! Give my utter impatience about the gray, weepy skies some cultural context by treating it like breaking news! Not to worry if you don't, though, because in five minutes I'm going to tell the world all about it, again, through a different channel! Are you following me? I'm following you! Follow me!
Enough already! Summer is slipping away and we're faced with a new age-old conundrum: if a tree falls in a forest and you witness it, but fail to tweet about it, should that tree have even bothered to fall at all? My head hurts.
Friends in need
In his 2000 book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert D. Putnam reflected at length about how television and the Internet are changing the face of personal interaction and "social capital" and, therefore, the social and familial dynamic. Individuals are relating increasingly to virtual and global comrades, he said, engaging more in theoretical socialization and bridging relationships that, while they should be lauded for their ability to transcend geography, will likely rarely, or never, come to face-to-face fruition.