It's 9:30 on a Thursday night and Twitter is busy. I know this because I tried to sign in to my newly created account to see why I have two followers when I have neither posted, tweeted nor uploaded anything to my....thing. I mean, I'm flattered and all, but how can Twitter be busy? Are there that many people sitting in front of their screens -- or walking while looking at their screens, or doing whatever they can now do with their screens? My point is, if Twitter is busy, there must be a heap-load of humanity communing with an electronic device at this moment. Including me, but that's a fluke. I don't tweet; I only just started "friending" people and using that new verb; and this blog is my personal foray into social media.
Don't get me wrong; I am in the communications business and all media, social or otherwise, is my thing. But on my personal time, I really don't want to look at another friggin' screen. It's not that I don't like it, get it, or appreciate the possibilities of human connection that social media has revolutionized. I do. It's just that all those people currently tweeting are not looking at each other (see previous blog post, Michael Mahony). And I am still a very strong believer in the power of eye contact.
You're going to say it's an age thing, and maybe it is. In this Second Half, you suddenly discover the value of the impractical, the beautiful for beauty's sake, and the non-virtual. I recently attended a talk by the head of a college Literature department whose specialty is Victorian Narrative Poetry. I wanted to cry at the utterly useless and impossibly lovely subject that is his passion. I can blog and text with the best of them, but when I'm done, I want to practice ancient Chinese calligraphy because it's so pretty. And when I put the iPhone down (and I'd really like to have an iPad, too), I want to look at you. I want to see your eyes, watch you smile, laugh with you and hear your voice. Not virtually. Really.
Of course you can do both -- connect virtually and personally connect. But I think you have to work at it. On a recent reunion visit to Boston with family members, it was great to have information about our trip, flights and options at our iPhone fingertips, but sometimes, I was looking for the eye contact and found it engaged otherwise. If you put the thing down sometimes, you can experience the volumes spoken in the pauses, shared amusement, pained expressions and signs of joy, excitement and bewilderment that just don't come across quite the same way virtually.
If Twitter remains busy, I will really miss that.