I finally made myself watch the “Look up!” video that’s been circling social media lately, using the very thing it’s criticizing to spread its message. And it really bothered me. Here it is:
This idea that you cannot personally connect with someone digitally is old-fashioned and in my opinion deeply unsocial. I don’t think my relationship with my boyfriend would exist today if we didn’t have access to digital communication when we were starting our relationship. This video completely ignores the fact that many people love other people who do not live within walking distance (and it’s filmed in London, a city with lots of distance).
Argh. Stop worrying so much. This is what you need to do in order to be a decent person with a smart phone:
Don’t have your face pointed at your phone screen when you are supposed to be socializing with an in-the-flesh friend who made the effort to get to the same geographic location as you to talk to you in person.
Do feel free to stare at your screen on public transportation. That’s a great time to catch up on the news, read a book, send a message to a friend, read your e-mail and do all sorts of other productive and possibly very social things. Don’t worry – public transportation used to look like this:
Don’t assume that reading a book is inherently better than looking at a screen. I spend so much of my screen-looking time reading books (with my Kindle app).
Do be thankful that if you feel sad and need to talk to a close friend, you can talk on the phone, send messages or even communicate through video. Yes, a hug is better than a video conference, but a video conference is much, much better than simply not being able to communicate because you cannot physically meet.
Do have good conversations. They can happen in person, over the phone, through long e-mails or letters, via text or instant messaging, or video chat. But use the communication tools at your disposal to really explore another person’s thoughts and ideas, and get to know the people you really think of as your friends.
Don’t feel the need to do that last one with everyone who friends you on Facebook. Just because Facebook uses the word “friend” about everyone from your best kindred spirit to that guy you said hi to at a party last night, doesn’t mean you can’t know the difference.
Don’t share important personal moments on social media as they happen. Let the idea that you just graduated, got engaged or had a child sink in before you broadcast it.
Do make sure everyone involved is ok with sharing those important moments when you eventually tell the world.
Do check your phone every now and then when you are at a party or other social gathering that lasts for a while. Maybe your friend got lost on the way to the party. Maybe there is an emergency. But check your calls, texts and maybe your Facebook messages or email. Not Facebook newsfeed, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. People will not use Instagram to warn you about an impending disaster that only you can fix.
Don’t worry about other peoples’ social media posts. Stop acting as if pictures of other peoples’ breakfast (or dog or feet or painted fingernails) pose a threat to our society. Go read some real news.
Dumb people are a bigger problem than smart phones.
That sentence is going to be my new catchphrase.
There. Was that so hard? Sorry it didn’t rhyme.
Update May 28th 2014: Felicity Morse writes for The Independent that Gary Turk, creator of “Look up!” is represented by a company that “connects brands with social video influencers” and is helping him make money from people staring at screens. She also writes:
“Directly contradicting Turk are the huge number of posts on Twitter, Facebook or even Reddit that contain unadulterated emotion, expressed much more truthfully than might be possible face to face. (…) One of the reasons Turk’s video has gone viral is down to people’s desire to spread positivity and remain connected, an altruistic impetus only amplified by social media.”