Anthony Carter

Turn Off the Social Networking and Really Interact

Filed By Anthony Carter | February 28, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: internet, relationships, social media, tv

I hereby declare a moratorium on technological advances.

facebook-face.jpgIn the sometimes witty and always stylized series Sex and the City, Carrie gets dumped via a Post-It note. I found this both hysterical and troubling at the same time.

This is what we've become.

In a culture of dinners prepared in ten minutes or less, conversations that are limited to emails and text messages, and voice mails counting as having had a relationship, is it any wonder Carrie's ex didn't have the "time" to do the dirty work in person?

While I know this was only a TV show, it truly nailed the direction we are gleefully heading.

If any and everything is done at lightning speed is it any wonder that we have trouble building relationships? With all of the ways that we have to communicate, you'd think we would be masters of interaction.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The divorce rate is high.

Attention spans are low and our own expectations of what is means to be in a relationship have been bashed, leaving many of us, myself included, to think why bother?

Growing up, I was surrounded by friends and family. I was repeatedly told two things: keep your house clean and have something you can offer folks to eat just in case somebody stopped by.

Things have changed.

Currently, our social interaction has been relegated to a series of planning, preplanning and implementation that makes working at the Pentagon look like a day at preschool.

What happened to "Oh, I'll stop by tomorrow at around two and we'll decide what we wanna do then" or "I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd pop by and see what you were up to."

This way of connecting with people has sadly been replaced with "call before you come over" or "give me a couple of hours to straighten up" or "let me get out my planner" or my personal favorite "I can get together one week from next Thursday for two hours."

With all the preparation and diligence that goes into actually "seeing " anyone, you'd think we would be one happy bunch of people merrily going along with our lives joyously skipping towards ecstasy.

Instead, we are always tired and overextended.

Which of course allows us to blame others because our time is being infringed upon and we don't know how that happened.

For godsakes people: wake up!

There is a very simple, time-honored, and immediately applicable solution: turn off the machines. Unplug. For a designated period of time daily, commit to actually seeing people, talking to people face-to-face. If someone is talking with you, do not text and feign interest.

We are not designed to do nine things at once.

Why not bring back the time-honored tradition of letter-writing, sending thank you notes.

We can turn this around. It is time for a people-based movement. It's extremely difficult to begin a movement if I don't know you.

Remember, Bayard Rustin, MLK, Gandhi, Ikeda, Fannie Lou Hammer didn't have access to the internet and none of them ever sent a text.

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We have a ridiculous amount of "communicating" in 2011....yet rarely do we have any real intimacy.

That's tragic. So I'm signing off to go visit a friend.

Whatcha talkin about? Some of my bestest friends are people I've never met face to face. *insert eye roll here*

A good example of pop culture getting it right, would be that ghastly acted movie, "Surrogates," starring Bruce Willis, where the everyday joe stays home, and plugs himself/herself into the computer, and a newer, shinier version of themselves, virtually a clone, lives out the day to day details of their lives. It's a little far fetched, but looking towards the's not all that far fetched in reality.

We live day to day in this virtual fantasy land of sorts, and lose track of physical friends who either don't facilitate an online lifestyle, or have moved away...and we haven't noticed. Since when has SIMS taken over?

I can't help but giggle... Facebook, SIMS, Virtual Reality...won't help you get a tan.

I'd like nothing more than to have enough freetime to prepare fresh meals daily, spend a couple of hours a day in direct, unscheduled contact with friends, etc. I think it's great that you've got this pleasant vision of a future in which all of these things are mine for the taking, but I'm curious how I'm supposed to find the time. Stop working 10-12hr days? Love to. Reduce my daily commute from the 3hrs I currently spend? I imagine that I *will* have plenty of freetime available once I've told my employer I will be working a reasonable-length day without the absurd commute...

No, you don't have to stop working 10-12 hours, you just have to do what the article has suggested. UNPLUG. What's so hard to grasp about that?

I'm beginning to notice a pattern here. You keep writing posts telling everyone else what we need to cut out of our lives in order to have better relationships: pride celebrations, casual/public/anonymous sex, and now social networking. But I think Harold hit the nail on the head last time around, it's not about us, it's about you.

Plenty of people have good relationships and use social networking sites. Plenty of people who don't still have bad relationships or no relationships. It's a convenient scapegoat of newfangled technology. And believe me, I've known folks who sit at the computer and keep hitting refresh in the hopes of finding some meaningful connection, but when those folks unplug they simply stare at the wall wallowing in the same loneliness. On the other hand, I've known extroverted activists and entrepreneurs who build great networks online, sustain those with in person events and activities, accomplish a lot that way, and still have well nourished personal relationships.

That person so busy that they only have 2 hours for you in two weeks, what do you think keeps them so busy? Living with someone who has been that busy working on a dissertation for 60-80 hours per week (who does no social networking, by the way), I can tell you that it's probably not because they have 6 hours of facebook per day penciled into their scheduler. If you want to blame something, I'd blame the way workers are expected to do more and more with less personal time to recuperate.

Ultimately, if you want to have better relationships in your life - friends or lovers - it's not going to be because of something you cut out but because of something you added. These things or others may be crutches that you personally are relying on, and perhaps getting rid of them will help motivate you to find what it is you need. But that does not mean that we all need to cut them out from our lives with you.

Wow, what a bitter attack. Perhaps Anthony has struck a chord and you realize you're guilty?

The essay is a wonderful assessment of how people are living today.

To accuse him of it all being about him is ridiculous. It's being written by him, it's his opinion, his observations. So in that respect, yes, it's about him. As is the case with every other author.

But "his" observations are fair about how all too many people are living today. To attack with such an infantile post is irrational.

You seem to have taken his words way, way too personally. Then again, that may be a good thing. Unplug and start having a life, hon.

Late last year I moved more than a thousand miles to an area where I knew very few people. I am old enough to remember what it used to be like when people visited and wrote snail mail letters. I remember a time when Sunday dinners were something really special when there was no television to watch. I think you raise some good issues, but having the luxury of the internet allows me to keep in contact with friends I haven't met face to face in years. But I agree that there is definitely a need for leisurely social interaction, and I would suggest that we consider shutting off the tv and the computer one day a week, and actually talk to people face to face in a social leisutely setting. Golly, that almost sounds scary.

Rick Sutton | March 1, 2011 8:02 AM

Excellent observations. And I think Tobi just cleaned (politely) your clock, Anthony.

Communications gadgets and techniques, can help us expand our worlds. They can also inhibit decent 1-on-1 communication.

We've definitely become less social in some respects. This texting phenom has helped shove the written language further down the sinkhole. Oy.

How to solve it? I know! Cooking?

Mac 'n cheese, buddy. My kitchen. Any time. Guaranteed conversation builder.

My small quibble is that dropping by without a phone call in advance was impolite, according to Miss Manners, since the 19th century. And Miss Manners knows everything since her knowledge wills facts into truth.

I also agree with other people that the reason we have less time is because of work, etc., and also I'd add that there are lots of people with lots of time. With an un/underemployment rate of around 17%, that's a lot of people who are complaining about having too much free time on their hands.

I actually don't feel so harried that I just don't have time for me, as the meme was back in the 90's. But then I don't spend much time on Facebook.

"Call before you come over" isn't a new rule. It's been that way since I was a kid. You don't stop by unexpectedly at someone's home; it's rude manners.

I dunno... it was my birthday recently and I got a ton of happy birthday comments and that made me feel really special!

It is one thing to say that social networking doesn't work for you, and another thing entirely to say that it doesn't work for anyone and should be shut down. Frankly, the latter makes you a self-righteous ass.

I really think that most people have trouble understanding an author's point.

What else could you attribute the hostility and anger from these haters?

The article is excellent commentary on the limits of our techno society. No psychologist or sociologist would disagree with anything you have written.

Calling you an "ass," accusing you of being all "about you," etc. What is wrong with these people?

As I said to you, when I wrote a blog for Backstage, the number of haters, and irrational people that would respond was mind-boggling.

This article is excellent. It should be published. The personal venom coming from these people should be left with them. Leave them to their bitter and reading disabled lives. And continue writing excellent commentary!

Jim, I'm not sure what exactly you are reacting to, but I'll point out that all your indictments of what I said are ad hominem claims without any warrents. So you think I'm bitter, infantile, reading disabled, and irrational, but what about my argument was wrong? It's not enough just to say I'm wrong and reacting emotionally. Referencing me diminuatively in this case is infantalizing but it doesn't change the fact that "unplugging" would not solve the problems caused by other issues, that not everyone using social media have those problems, and that it will take away solutions we have to other problems - and the same thing goes for pride and hooking up.

Ironically, you decry the "haters," but your behavior seems to fit that term better then mine. Unless, of course, you define hater simply as anyone who states disagreement with something you believe.

For what its worth, whether you believe me or not, I've intended no malice. And also, I am a sociologist disagreeing with this article.

You're "not sure"? Somebody called him a "self-righteous ass" and your first paragraph was completely rude and personally attacking. If you meant "no malice" in writing that then you need a reality check in how you're coming across. You were aggressive, condescending, personally attacking. Read your first paragraph and tell me I'm wrong.

Anthony used hyperbole for emphasis. His basic argument is that there is a dark side to human interaction with techno. It's the same argument I've seen written about and talked about for several years now. So I'm not sure why you're jumping all over him as if he said God is dead.

Secondly, there was no need to refute all of your argument. While factually, you are correct in that some use the net to great productivity and others not, that is irrelevant. His article was speaking generally about a pattern growing. That generality is correct. It's not something to refute with, "I know cases where that's not true..." This is a tiresome dynamic on internet forums where anybody expresses an observation.

There is a great lack of civility and rudeness that goes with the ease of expressing oneself online. That's my observation. Is it right in every case? No. I'm generalizing because I've seen it generally enough to the point it's worth talking about.

I'm sure Anthony would agree. He's made an observation, a general observation, that he sees is happening often enough to warrant an essay about it.

He takes it for granted that people will understand there will be exceptions. Aren't there always? But generally, his observation is spot on.

You made a few generalizations that were astute as well. But overall you missed his message. He wasn't literally meaning throw away all techno and he wasn't saying there were no exceptions. He used hyperbole as a way to get people to see what they need to see. And he did it very well.

I believe everybody could benefit by unplugging as much as they can. My nephew lost 40 lbs, by unplugging video games.

Anthony would agree that techno is wonderful. It's given him a writer's forum. But I know he'd sadly agree that when you put yourself out there people can be so rude.

We can disagree with people's views without being so rude in our disagreeing. That is something that is really on the rise today. Maybe I'll blog about that.


"I believe everybody could benefit by unplugging as much as they can. My nephew lost 40 lbs, by unplugging video games."

My nephew discovered he could fly after eating forty bowls of Cap'n Crunch. It's a crazy world! Luckily, he was near the ground when the effect wore off.

I would like to point out the massive irony in urging us to all unplug from the venue of a blog.

Since this was not brought to me as a gravured pamplet, borne on a silver salver, to myself in the parlor by Jeeves, I shall feel free to ignore it!

Good day to you sir!