Everyone needs some alone time

By Brian Dukerschein

I don’t mean to alarm you, but there are zombies among us. You see them everywhere—on the train, in the streets and climbing the stairs, albeit slowly. They are silent, plodding and oblivious to the world around them.

I’m not talking about zombies of the brain-munching variety but people who have permanently attached themselves to their smartphones. It seems the iPhone and its ilk are the next step in our evolution. They are new appendages that allegedly bring us together but in reality lead to detachment.

Smartphones aren’t entirely to blame for this epidemic. They are merely the conduit. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare and Tumblr all exist to connect us to our fellow man. RSS feeds and Google news alerts ensure we’re up to date on every global event. Google Talk, mobile email and texting mean everyone, everywhere can respond to you at any time. We’re plugged in to the world 24-7, and things just couldn’t

be better.

I have to go on record, though, that none of this appeals to me, and I no longer use any of the social media I just mentioned. I don’t even have a smartphone. Call me old-fashioned, but I have absolutely no desire to be hyper-connected to the world and those in it. I would go so far to argue that one needs to tune out this global chatter in order to appreciate life more.

It disturbs me that so many relationships are now based on text messages and Facebook wall posts, and that people are increasingly interacting with the world through the glow of a touch-sensitive screen. Whatever happened to sitting down with a friend and having a conversation uninterrupted by a vibrating phone? When did it become necessary to share every mundane and profane detail of your life with a global audience? And on a similar note, why the hell should I care that you “checked in” at Dairy Queen?

It seems that the majority of social media and mobile technology exists to combat people’s pathological fear of silence and loneliness. After all, it’s hard to feel lonely walking down the street with earbuds blaring music exclusively for you while tweeting about the latest addition to your Pinterest board. You think you’re the bright, shining center of the universe, but take a step back and look at yourself. You, my friend, are in a self-made bubble. An airplane could be going down right over your head, and you wouldn’t know it.

In “The Tempest,” Shakespeare writes, “Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices that, if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again.” This quote often comes to mind when I see people completely absorbed in their smartphones, allaying themselves from the specter of silence with the reassuring din of constant digital interaction. Are we, as a society, afraid to sit alone with ourselves and our thoughts? What do we think would happen

if we stepped away from

social media?

I had a Facebook page for a number of years. I was tardy to the party compared to most people my age, and I could never get fully on board with the concept of broadcasting my activities and thoughts. I did my best to be clever for my highly edited list of friends, but my own interest in what I was saying, not to mention the photos of parties I wasn’t invited to, soon dropped.

My Facebook page was officially laid to rest two weeks ago, and there have been a number of benefits. First of all, I have a lot more free time. While I never devoted too much of my day to reading about my ex’s summer vacation or commenting on an Instagram photo of someone’s lunch, it’s amazing how easy it is to get sucked into a Facebook time vortex. Secondly, friends now have to resort to more direct means of communicating with me. I have to say I’m enjoying actually using some of these Verizon “anytime minutes” I’ve been paying for.

I relish the fact that I’m able to come home, leave my bag at the door with my 3-year-old flip phone inside,  sit on my couch and read a magazine—no breaking news alerts, no Twitter feeds to monitor and no Facebook photos to “like.”  You may say this makes me sound like a jaded old man, but I say the world would be better off if everyone tuned out social media rather than the world.