I wake up at 3 a.m. to catch my flight home. I work on the flight, so upon getting to my connection, I need one of those rare-as-diamond outlets. The only one I can find is far from my gate.
At this point, I’ve completely forgotten four things: I’m on far less sleep than I usually function with. I’m on a shorter-than-usual layover. I’m in a different time zone than I’ve left or than I’m going to. And neither my laptop nor my Blackberry clocks update the time zone. So I'm tapping away, working and IMing and Twittering.
If you guessed that the story ends up with me exhausted, humiliated, furious with myself, and on a later flight, you’d be right.
A friend told me this was because of my over-reliance on technology. I think she just meant I needed to wear a watch. But maybe she's even more right: maybe this is a fantastic, irony-bathed example of the ills of social media. Coming back from a conference on all this trendy new technology, all hopped up on its coolness and promise... I miss my flight, while hooked up to all this so-called helpful technology. I'm my own cautionary tale on the useless distraction that is social media.
Yeah. That was definitely part of the mortification. But. While I completely, undeniably, did something stupid, the thing is, I've never required technological assistance to do stupid things. I’ve been doing them all my life, and I’m sure I’ll keep doing them, with or without anything electronic nearby. Nothing I was logged into or out of created my stupid mistake.
But on the other hand, technology put me in touch with people who (despite my aforementioned proclivity to do stupid things) care about me. And when you’re feeling alone, dejected, and very, very foolish, that can be the best thing in the world.
After some commiseration and some old-fashioned sympathy, I felt less alone in my stupidity. Moreover, I felt less alone, period.
So is social media a concatenation of distractions that can leave you overstimulated, confused, distracted, and unable to focus, like the naysayers argue? Absolutely.
But people argue that about the internet overall. About computers. About television. Probably Moses took crap from people who didn’t like stone tablets.
And they’re always right. Because like McLuhan said, the purpose of technology is to take your regular capacities as a human further. To imagine, to converse, to learn, to hear, to see. It’s like a pair of stilts. If you don’t get the balance right, you’ll fall down, it’ll hurt, and you’ll look pretty stupid. But if you do, you can be head and shoulders above those who aren’t bothering to try.
So I’ll just keep wobbling along and try not to mind the bruises.
Edited to add related link.