For the past several years, Australia's The Reach Foundation has sponsored "Social September." The Reach Foundation is an organization aimed at enhancing the social well-being of youths ages 10-18. With a motto "Disconnect to Reconnect," the aim of Social September is to encourage people of all ages to engage in face to face contact in lieu of using technology to communicate. Registering in Social September comes with a mandate to unplug, even for as little as an hour a day. Which engenders the question, how long can you go without looking at your smartphone?
I've been ruminating about this lately. When I'm bored, I turn to my phone. If I'm not checking email, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, I'm playing my go-to trilogy of digital card games: Solitaire, Free Cell or Spider Solitaire. Or I'll play Mah-Jongg. I think about the growing stack of magazines that I subscribe to and the novels worth reading. I should opt for those instead, but more often than not, I don't.
Attention to social media leads to certain pitfalls. Like two weekends ago. It was a beautiful Sunday, and we had no plans. Now, my husband has been unemployed, and consequently, we've been in financial austerity mode. Foolishly, I started to browse on Instagram. After seeing various postings from vacationers as close by as Nantucket and as far away as the Cote d'Azur, I was sick and threw down my phone. The problem with Social Media is it breeds lifestyle envy (a known phenomenon). This phenomenon can lead us to switch to a different platform (the healthy alternative) or give up entirely (the non-healthy alternative). Last Sunday, I obviously succumbed to the non-healthy option.
In my profession, I've embraced social media. I use it for branding, marketing and publicity. I also use it for research. I follow other designers and brands to keep abreast of new products and design ideas. But sometimes, it becomes toxic. Like when I see the projects of other designers I wish I had. I heard not too long ago of a colleague's decision to abstain from social media for six months for just this very reason. And this would be the last designer I would expect (from this designer's social media profile) to suffer from lifestyle envy! Simple proof of the pervasiveness of this phenomenon.
So I think I will commit to Social September. And I invite you to do so also. Instead of sending that text message or email, pick up the phone. If you have news to share, call your friends and family. Or better yet, arrange a visit. Engage in face to face conversation. After all, it's only human.