We live in the information age. Everything is always just a few clicks or taps away, and most functions of your home computer can now be done from a pocket-sized device that has an always-on connection to the Internet. With this has come seemingly endless ways to stay connected and in touch with former friends and family members that may live across the nation ... or world even. Social networks have sprouted up left and right for the past several years, creating new and innovative ways to stay in touch.
But where do you draw the line? How connected is too connected?
Years ago, only a few of my friends and family members had text messaging. In fact, only a few of them had cell phones. If someone wanted to get in touch with me, they would call me from their house phone, or the few friends with cell phones would use them to call or text me. That, or they would simply come find me at home, work, etc.
Now just about everyone I know has a smartphone. The ways in which they can get in touch with me are limitless; they can text message or email me, or they can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or one of the many instant messaging services I use. Oh, there is also voice calling. Most of my friends know I carry multiple phones, so if I miss a call, I better start digging for the other phone.
I truly love the integration and how deeply nested all of this is in our lives. It's great that when I need to contact someone but I don't know their number, I can just message them on Facebook (because who isn't on Facebook?). Or, if they list their phone number on their profile, I can just give them a call. (I try not to do that unless absolutely necessary because most of them never remember that their number is openly available to all of their Facebook friends and act like you've wronged them by calling.)
But sometimes it just gets to be too much – there is no real escape. Even if you take the time to disconnect from it all once per week or during the holidays, it stacks up like your email inbox while you are away.
Friends and family members know just how connected I am. They know if and when I'm ignoring them. If I don't answer a call or text message, they know I'm probably working and can send me a message on Facebook. They know they can probably get in touch with me faster through Twitter than anything else. And if I just walk away from it all and never reply, I will never hear the end of it ... literally. Between all of the phones and tablets on my desk, the buzzing never ends. If I never answer, it only gets worse – they will find me elsewhere.
I've invested myself in social media, so much so that it is a vital part of my life. Sure, I could post to Twitter less or uninstall Facebook from my phone. But it's going to catch me one way or another. Social media is integrated deeply into everything we do, especially in my work life. And it's the best way for most people to get in touch with me.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it no longer boils down to simply turning off my phone. Almost everything I do is Internet-related. If I turn off my phone, they can still reach me from my computer. Even a simple disconnect is not as simple as it once was.
The worst part is that I love it all: social media, smartphones, tablets and generally all technology. I'm a fiend, an early adopter and a nerd to the nth degree. And I'm not alone. A lot of you guys and gals are just the same. You're on the front lines of technology and always in the first round of beta testers for a new product or network – a fanboy (or fangirl) of all things new, if you will. Too connected or not, it's impossible to walk away. It's the new way of life.
Tell me, readers. Do you ever feel too connected? Do you wish social media wasn't such a major part of our lives? Or do you embrace it all? Do you wish there were more networks and ways to connect?