We’ve all seen the articles about how we spend too much time on social media and not enough time “being present” with those who are physically in front of us. We’ve been exhorted to turn off our phones and have face-to-face conversations. Blah blah blah.
That’s not what we’re going to talk about today, so don’t check out just yet.
Twitter is fun. Twitter is its own community, and it allows you to carry a large number of friends around with you in your pocket, everywhere you go. It allows you something to do while you’re stuck in a long line. It provides a place for you to share weird conversations you overhear in public. You can take pictures of what you’re doing and share that very moment, rather than wait ’til you get home.
These things are all great when you’re out and about alone. But, when you are with other people, and you’re live tweeting your friends’ conversations, and pictures of what you and your friends and family are doing, you’re essentially taking something that isn’t about you, and making it all about you.
Instead of your wife’s labor and delivery process being about the child the two of you are bringing into this world, and the special moment that is for your family, and the incredible amount of effort and pain and beauty that is the child-birthing process, live tweeting it makes it about your annoying mother-in-law, who treats you like a moron; about your long and boring wait outside the labor and delivery room; about the grossness of a C-section.
Instead of your seniors’ graduations being about their accomplishments and achievements and the futures and possibilities that loom ahead of them, live tweeting them makes it about you being there; about the boring ceremony you had to endure; about how great of a youth worker you are.
Instead of your sister’s wedding being about her and her partner joining together for a lifetime, live tweeting it makes it about how good you look in your dress; about the awkward, too-long hug you got from Uncle Bernard; about the mess you made of the chocolate fondue at the reception.
It’s okay to accumulate stories about your long wait in the delivery room, about how you got stuck sitting behind the seven-foot-tall man at graduation; about how you made a total fool of yourself at the chocolate fondue station, and then later on the dance floor. These are all ways that we personalize our experiences and relive them later, with friends. But should we live tweet them as they happen?
This article both is and is not about being present. As it turns out, everyone who has come before, and said that we should make an effort to put down our phones and be present, is right—because, once we do that, we will be far less inclined to find a way to make the world revolve around ourselves.