Looking Forward: Screen Time

On the rare occasion that I meet someone who’s not on Facebook, I find myself having two distinct reactions: first comes surprise; next comes envy. What would it be like, I wonder, not to have the urge to scroll through a newsfeed; not to be concerned with checking to see if it’s someone’s birthday; not to feel obliged to comment on a friend’s new profile photo?

In the past year, my involvement in social media has sky-rocketed. I started a blog. Opened a Pinterest account. Last month, I joined Instagram. I tweet (however infrequently). I’m on Facebook.

I wouldn’t be a part of these networks if I didn’t enjoy them.  But the amount of time they consume in my day-to-day life does make me a little uncomfortable. And it’s not just social media. The number of hours I spend in front of a screen every week (iPhone included) is staggering—and I don’t even have cable.

There’s a part of me that would love to turn off the phone and ignore the laptop—if only for a day or two. Would I feel bored? Liberated? Would I miss anything important? My job, of course, would make it difficult to do this—but maybe I could start in little ways, like riding the bus without scrolling through the photos on my phone; or walking the twelve blocks from the subway station home without flipping through my emails.

The sad fact is, by spending so many hours in the virtual world, I am missing things that are important. Conversations with strangers. Brilliant performances by musicians on the street. People-watching that may be great inspiration for a short story. Sunsets. The possibilities are endless. Still, it’s surprisingly difficult to disconnect.

I’m wondering, what have your experiences been like when it comes to balancing an online presence with a life in the real world?

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