Sharing vs. Living in the Moment

by DJ Waldow on March 12, 2012 · 67 comments

I attend and speak at many marketing conferences. I spend time on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. I consume content. I create content. I share content.

One thing I’m noticing more lately is our need, an almost uncontrollable urge, to be constantly sharing online. A few recent, real-life examples include:

  • Sitting next to someone while they tweet – about me.
  • Hearing a friend say, “Oh. Wait. I need to check-in on foursquare so everyone knows I’m here.”
  • Seeing a colleague check their Facebook stream while I’m in the middle of a conversation with them.
  • Watching a sporting event while tweeting about it (ok, that one was me).

To be clear, I’m not judging the amount of time folks are spending sharing, posting, updating, checking-in, etc. It would be hypocritical of me to do as I’m often in the heavy-sharer crowd. Due to what Waldow Social (my company) specializes in, much of my online behavior is work-related; however, a lot of it is also for personal reasons. I tend to blend work & personal all day, every day (but that’s an other blog post entirely)

More than anything, I’m making an observation – one that has me pondering a bit. Why do we spend so much time sharing? Why do we feel the need to “update our followers” on Twitter or post a bit of news (often about ourselves) on Facebook? Why do we stop in mid-sentence to take a picture and post it to Instagram or take a video to share on YouTube?

Is it just our need to be connected? Is it for marketing or sales purposes? Is it “build our brand?” Are we so narrisictic to think others care about what we are doing or thinking?

But what really has me thinking – and worried – is this: Is all of this sharing preventing us from living in the moment? Is it taking time away from enjoying what’s in front of us, what’s happening around us?

I say yes.

And I don’t think it’s healthy.

Trust me, I understand and believe in the power and the good of social media. After all, it helped me land a job a few years back. It’s helped grow Waldow Social to what it is today. Without social media, I would not have connected with many interesting, unique individuals. I appreciate that social media has played a positive role in political uprisings across the world and allowed us to connect with companies to resolve issues. However, I also believe strongly that our need to share – everything, all the time – is negatively impacting our relationships.

The next time you are out to dinner or at a conference or at the bus-stop, keep your phone in your pocket and look around. Observe the people around you. As Mitch Joel said in this incredible blog post, people “flirt and caress” their smartphones. It’s fascinating to see the number of people who, instead of looking others in the eye, instead of taking in the world around them, instead of having face to face conversations, are buried in our devices.

I worry that all the time we are spending “updating” and “sharing” we are missing the world around us. We are not living in the now. It’s almost as if we are waiting for that next moment to tell “our followers” what we are doing or sharing that next tidbit of news.

I have not come to any conclusions about this yet as there have been a lot of thoughts floating around in my head. I’ve thought (a lot) lately about deleting my Facebook account, abandoning my Twitter account, removing my profiles from Google+ and Instagram and Pinterest. Several months ago, I deleted email from my iPhone. After a few months, I added it back. Based on the work I do at Waldow Social, it would be silly for me to break away this permanently; however, the thought has crossed my mind more than once.

I look at my wife who is not on Twitter, hasn’t logged into Facebook in nearly a year, has never set up an account on Google+ or Pinterest or Instagram. And you know what? She does not feel as though she’s missing out on anything. She’s successful in her career. She’s happy. She’s well-liked and respected by her colleagues and co-workers. She’s one trimester away from making us a family of 4. And she’s not participating in social media.

This post is far from complete. I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t have it all figured out. What I’d really like more than anything is to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this topic? Am I alone in my thinking? Have you noticed the same thing? Please share in the comments below.

And yes, I appreciate the irony that I’ll be many of you (including me) will be sharing this post on social networks.

DJ Waldow
Waldow Social
@djwaldow

67 comments
cahlberg
cahlberg

@s_m_i i think you may be right :) But I still love Instagram. And I'm probably guilty of lack of thoughtfulness :)

TM_Erin
TM_Erin

This is a great topic to chew on. Last weekend my husband and I took our first trip without our kids in six years. I took a whopping 4 Instagram photos. I didn't look at Facebook or Twitter once. I hauled my DSLR Camera with me and didn't even get it out of the bag once. I was too busy just enjoying my Fat Tire, making eye contact with my husband and reading by the pool. The more time I spend working online and in social media, the more I've come to realize that, for me, there's not a set recipe for balance. I try to allow myself to become immersed in life and interacting with people and if that experience is so rich that I don't think to snap a photo or tweet about it, then that's okay. 

pilarbower
pilarbower

I thought about this post a couple times over the weekend!  It was interesting to be at a family birthday party and I was just trying to enjoy my time with the babies in the family in the moment instead of snapping photos for every cute thing they did. (granted, I did get a couple good ones - and I waited until later that night to post so I could share with the fam!)  Another question - what do you think about GetGlue? (I consider it like Foursquare for Couch Potatoes) For me that is fun because it is a way to get stickers, and get social with others who watch the same TV shows I do.  I do not Share on every check in, but sometimes I cringe when I get a couple stickers in one night and those are currently set up to automatically Share to FB/Twitter. Some people may be annoyed by that, but on the other hand they also trigger some great conversations with friends who watch the same shows.  As opposed to Foursquare, I don't think this is really taking away from the moment - after all, I'm just sitting on the couch watching TV and it does make it more interactive and entertaining. I also love that GetGlue automatically adds in twitter handles and hashtags to updates so you can follow the conversation even further on Twitter easily (I don't think Foursquare does that yet, right?).

PamelaMKramer
PamelaMKramer

Agreed! You are NOT alone. It can be a bit much at times. I've been wondering this same thing myself over the past few days. Is what I'm sharing personal or for work? I think it got to be too much personal. I must admit the four square check-ins have me sucked in due to the discounts or specials. I'm all about saving some money. I'm trying to send more of the work related stuff to my fan page on facebook so I'm annoying the people on my personal profile. That tends to help out a bit. It's a tough call but I do try to use some manners. I'm not going to have a conversation with you while checking my phone. That seems kind of rude. lol

BusinessSchuhe
BusinessSchuhe

I guess to me the social media is a tool just like ever other  - either for work (like yourself DJ) or entertainment. I am from a large, dispersed family and social media makes staying in touch much easier - I am closer to my nephews and nieces than I would otherwise be. However, it does not replace actual meeting up or phone calls. I see it a bit like watching TV - which can be great fun, entertaining and even social if you sit down with your family, laugh and cry over a great movie and then chat about it. But, it is less healthy if watching TV is all you do, every day, every hour, neglecting your personal interactions, exercise etc. Of course, checking your mails/fb/twitter etc while in a conversation with others is just plain rude - you wouldn't pick a book up in that situation? 

PhilGerb
PhilGerb

@djwaldow awesome reminder to be present. Thanks!

dudafu7
dudafu7

@djwaldow Disneyland! Your best choice for vocation! Check out here and grab its free ticket now: @Free_Disney_

lamiki
lamiki

Interesting question, DJ. The more active I've become in social, the more conscious I am about being on social while hanging out with people in real life. It helped that my husband - who's not as active on social media as I am - had to train me to put away my phone numerous times.

 

For me, when hanging out with people I'll check-in on foursquare as soon as I get to a location, then I'll put my phone away. Literally, as in away in my bag. I do not leave it on the table or check Twitter or Facebook, I think that's rude. I do not check my networks or email unless I'm alone and riding the bus. The exception is if I'm at an event where live-Tweeting is the thing. But then I put my phone away when the networking happens.

 

It's funny because the more conscious I've become about keeping online away from offline, the more it annoys me when people are on their phones when I'm in their presence.

 

My rule is if I have to be on my phone or keep it out, I try to announce why -- e.g. client emergency perhaps -- or I put it away.

DrewMiller
DrewMiller

You've tapped into a subject I've been thinking about for a long time, but have never been able to articulate clearly my friend - well done! I think there are a ton of Psychology/Sociology lessons to be learned from this.   Truth be told, I honestly feel more connected to my co-workers (open office environment) than any of my friends or followers on Facebook or Twitter. It's more satisfying, more fulfilling, and I get to engage with them in a way that's much more powerful than words on a screen. Nothing can replace the power of face-to-face interaction with other people - it's built into our DNA as humans. When I jump in the Twitter river, or post something on FB, it gives me a good feeling initially, but the longer I linger, the lonelier and disconnected I actually feel.   So my theory, which is far from scientific, is that if a person is being what I call "digitally hypnotized", they will gradually feel a sense of being out of touch with real people and the real world, and crave the need for face-to-face interaction. And if all this time is being dedicated to updating, posting and checking - like you mentioned - the less time we are putting into our own interpersonal relationships (face time).   I also think people use their digital lives as a security blanket instead of interacting with people. Think about it... You're at a conference by yourself and don't know anyone.... What do you do? Pull out your BB or iPad and zone out.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

This is a very real struggle for so many of us whose participation in the social space is linked in some way to our careers and job responsibilities - or, in my case, directly linked to my very active job search.  The retreat into our smartphones is, as @megtripp pointed out, a mechanism to set boundaries in social situations.  I've done this. We all have, I suspect.  @djwaldow , my wife is very much like yours. She's not on Twitter and is a very passive Facebook user (checks it to see what others are doing, but infrequently posts). As an teacher, she doesn't work at her computer much during the day because she's on her feet during instructional time. She doesn't feel that she's missing a thing - and I agree with her - because social doesn't mesh neatly with her profession.  

 

 

kimkircher
kimkircher

When I was a kid, my mom used to usher my siblings and I together for photos. She wanted to "capture the moment", she said. I felt annoyed by it. Now as an adult, I do it too. I take several photos and post one to FB. There seems a need to preserve the present moment so we can look at it later, as if life is just about accumulating moments. But that's not it at all. Our current world offers many ways to become obsessed, but the best way to be happy and free is to be present.

DrewCarls
DrewCarls

@djwaldow good food for thought

noisyzen
noisyzen

@djwaldow I cannot agree with you more.

djwaldow
djwaldow

@martinlieberman @CutlerDave - Thanks for sharing that guys. Sharing. Ha!

jasonkeath
jasonkeath

People do it because it is rewarding.

 

They will keep doing it until the reward goes away.

 

That evolution is different for everyone. Offline relationships should be MORE rewarding, but as you know DJ, online and offline relationships are not always two separate entities. Many, especially in this industry, keep offline relationships that are strengthened through online sharing, conversations, and check ins.

CutlerDave
CutlerDave

Great post DJ. I was just talking this issue this morning. It's a balance I struggle with myself on a daily basis. While I'm admittedly a heavy sharer throughout the day, I think there's a distinction between what should be acceptable when in the comforts of your home/office or out and about on your own vs. engaged in conversation or attending a social event. It's all relative. I'm often bothered by some of the behaviors described in your post, but my wife also wishes I did a better job of living in the moment. I also agree with @megtripp that pre-existing behaviors and tendencies are enabled and exacerbated by the increasingly socially acceptable act of burying your face in a smartphone (which can, as she notes, render even the most social folks awkward by extension). 

kristaparry
kristaparry

Excellent post DJ and one that both K-Dawg and T-Dawg would applaud. It's funny, working in the tourism industry I love that people share their stories via updates, pins, tweets, +1, etc. As a vacationer, I love that I get receive awesome recommendations on places to go, eat, visit, experience, thanks to my "network". I think that the key is balance... maybe that's the hard thing to find. You can still live in the moment (and tweet and update your status and pin and +1)... as long as you aren't focusing more on those things than enjoying the ones you're with. I would have never met my bff (that's you) or my doctor (that's K-Dawg) if tis wasn't for sharing.

sue_anne
sue_anne

Personally, I've been making a concentrated effort to leave my phone in my purse or put away in social situations. Case in point was on Sunday night when I had some folks over for dinner and only touched my phone once the 3 hours they were here (and that's because I was using it as a timer to finish part of dinner). 

 

The "always on" nature of social networks means that people have to find personal balance that works for them. It's not easy and given apps like Highlight, Path, Instagram and others, it's just going to get trickier. 

pilarbower
pilarbower

Agreed! I spontaneously closed my Foursquare account about a year ago (badges & all) because my husband would get so annoyed (rightly so) whenever we went somewhere and I felt the need to check in first. No regrets! I am also guilty of loving Reality shows, which are an extreme of the same needs we feel to share our lives. While I do think we have great tools to keep in touch with friends & family, it does get to be a little extreme. I try to go dark now on the weekends... and resist the urge to pull out my phone to take a picture every time I think something amazing is happening so that I can enjoy it in real time.  Thanks for the article DJ.

timbrechlin
timbrechlin

It's the endless checking in that bugs me. I am not so arrogant as to believe that everyone who follows me on Twitter or is my friend on Facebook is interested in knowing what burger joint I just sat down at.

Kyle_Byers
Kyle_Byers

@djwaldow Couldn't agree more. But how to find a balance?

GreggBlanchard
GreggBlanchard

DJ, I completely agree. I've had a couple of "think about this for a second" moments recently on this very theme.  One was while watching Lance Armstrong compete in a triathlon last fall. I had always wanted to watch him race, but after the event was said and done, I realized I had only watched him through the lens of my camera...trying to preserve a moment I never enjoyed in the first place.  The second was just yesterday, someone at SXSW posted a picture of a skydiver landing.  The entire crowd in their picture had their phones up, snapping pictures.  Not a single person was just watching and enjoying it through their own eyes, not the pixelated rendition they (and their friends) would see on Twitter later.  It's a fascinating concept to be more worried about sharing the moment than enjoying the moment.

SACV
SACV

@tim_baran @djwaldow Excellent post. Very thoughtprovoking. Thanks.

panarosmith2
panarosmith2

It's similar to our relationship to food. We ( Americans) tend to be an all or nothing kind of clan. Balance is the key. have your cake-just don't eat it all day long.

 

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

Erin! First trip without your children is 6 years? WOW. Ha. 

 

" I was too busy just enjoying my Fat Tire, making eye contact with my husband and reading by the pool."

 

That's what it's all about, right? I'm not even close to figuring this whole thing out - the balance. I'm such an "all or nothing" guy which makes it tough.

 

Thanks so much for proving that it's possible! 

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @pilarbower Sweet. That was one of the goals of this posts ... to make you THINK!

 

While I know about GetGlue, I've never actually used it. Seems to make more sense to me in that it's very much "community" oriented around an event (or in this case, a TV show).

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @lamiki Thanks for adding to the discussion. Curious about foursquare. As involved as I am in SoMed, I've never ever once "check-in." Not sure I get the phenomenon. What's the point in announcing to "your followers" where you are? I know - you could ask similar questions about posting to FB and Twitter. Just ... don't get it.

 

I like your rules too. Make sense.

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @DrewMiller "Nothing can replace the power of face-to-face interaction with other people - it's built into our DNA as humans." 100% agree. I think for me, personally, it's more of a challenge as I work from home. I do feel that "out of touch" sense ... often. That's why I go to Starbucks!

 

Thanks for your comments and insight. Much appreciated!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @kimkircher LOVE this, "Our current world offers many ways to become obsessed, but the best way to be happy and free is to be present." 

 

You also make an excellent point about "preserving the moment." It's almost as if Facebook's timeline and our photostream have replaced the "old school" pictures, right? Interesting. As long as we are not OVER doing that kinda stuff, I'm cool with it. 

Thanks for your comments and insight.

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @jasonkeath Yeah. I get that for sure. And I agree that offline relationships are strengthened through online. All I'm saying is that some of us (myself included) spend SO much time sharing that we may be forgetting to live in the moment.

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @CutlerDave  @megtripp To be clear, I'm not anti-sharing. I'm just worried about what we are giving up by sharing so much. What are we missing out on? Is the gain worth the "sacrifice?"

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

Thanks @kristaparry . Balance. Balance. Balance. Can you teach me that? Ha.

 

And, yes, great point about meeting you. 

 

Speaking of, it's time we met FACE TO FACE soon.

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @sue_anne Yeah. That's what I worry about ... it getting trickier. 

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @pilarbower Sounds like you've found that balance - during the week vs. weekends. Can you help me? Ha!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @timbrechlin Ha. Yeah. I've actually never signed up for a location-based service. Never once checked in...

djwaldow
djwaldow

@Kyle_Byers Ahhhh...balance. So, you are saying that exists? Ha! Love to hear more!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @GreggBlanchard "It's a fascinating concept to be more worried about sharing the moment than enjoying the moment." Exactly. That's what I'm trying to figure out - Why do we do this and ... how much is it taking away from true personal enjoyment?

djwaldow
djwaldow

@SACV @tim_baran Thanks to you both. Love to hear your take.

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @panarosmith2 For sure it's about balance - something that's never been a strength of mine. Ha!

PamelaMKramer
PamelaMKramer

 @djwaldow OK here we go! To me I see your point sharing is still sharing. I break it down between personal vs. work because of the length of time it takes me. One takes me longer than the other which allows me more time to live in the moment. If it's work related it's usually very brief. If it's personal and normally that means something along the lines of fitness, parenting, photographs...etc., that take a lot longer for me to share which allows me less time to live in the moment. The only way to truly live in the moment is turn ALL devices off. We have a parents group at church and there is a couple that have a "No electronic devices on Sunday rule." I'm not even sure how that would work for me. I tend to work 7 days a week. Whoa...I need to take a break and rethink my time balance. No wonder I feel so off. lol - Thanks for the thought provoking material.

BusinessSchuhe
BusinessSchuhe

 @djwaldow hehehe - maybe carry a book /newspaper with you and start reading it the moment others start "sharing" in inappropriate moments? Alternatively, just wait until they are finished, then pretend to finish a conversation by saying: "great, I am so glad we agreed on this - when can you have it over to me?".... Would i dare doing this? Not sure, but it IS tempting....

Kyle_Byers
Kyle_Byers

@djwaldow Yes, I'm pretty sure it's the natural material a unicorn's horn is made of.

GreggBlanchard
GreggBlanchard

 @djwaldow Those really are the big questions, especially the personal enjoyment slant.  As for why, I'll keep chewing on the idea until someone (DJ?) writes a book about it ;)  My simple theory to date is that the pleasure we get from sharing along with the accompanying positive feedback from our social spheres and (maybe especially) the anticipation of such this feedback, has become more satisfying or releases more dopamine in the brain than witnessing the actual event.  Or maybe it always has been this way but has only come to the surface thanks to social media.

GreggBlanchard
GreggBlanchard

 @djwaldow It must be. I'm reading "Reality is Broken" right now and at times comments, likes, retweets, etc. remind me of a game.  It makes me wonder if we'd still turn to social media as much if humans gave more compliments to each other, reality's version of likes and comments.

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @GreggBlanchard I think you hit on something big - "the pleasure we get from sharing along with the accompanying positive feedback." It is almost drug-like, right?

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