The Switch Off
Everyone has a morning routine. Let me tell you about my Dad's: he wakes up, showers, makes his breakfast, reads the paper before getting in his car and heading to work. I won't tell you how old he is, because he'll probably kill me, but it's safe to say we're from very different generations.
Now let me tell you my morning routine when I was still working and living in London. I would: wake up, read my emails, shower, pick my playlist for the walk to the tube, find my Kindle, then run out the door because I was going to be late after being distracted. I would listen to music and read my Kindle all the way to the office, once I got there I would: switch on my computer, read more emails, perhaps check the headlines on the news, and an hour later realise that I needed a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal. I'm pretty sure that is every office worker's routine in the morning, unless they're crazy and throw in a morning run too.
I'm currently travelling, so one would expect that my routine has changed quite significantly, but I realised the other day it hasn't. I wake up (albeit in the afternoon!), rummage for my phone and check emails, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, stumble to the shower, come out and check all that social media again. I guess in the time I've been showering I am worried that I've missed a humorous tweet, or one of my friends on Facebook has decided to declare undying love to her boyfriend who is coincidently sitting right next to her. No matter where I am my brain is now used to 'going online' before I've given myself the chance to wake up properly.
Dita Von Teese tweeted recently that she went to a tango club in Argentina where she couldn't 'get over how inspiring it was to be in these tango clubs, to see people without their phone in hand, no text, not documenting.' And that she felt 'it would be breaking etiquette to pull out [her] phone for any purpose.' The first thing I thought when I read that was: 'What a strange concept. No one is taking pictures of themselves, or texting their friends at the bar with their drink order?' It wasn't until later when I was watching a movie, Whatsapping my friends, tweeting and Instagramming a photo of my surroundings, that I realised Dita Von Teese was onto something: we have trouble switching off.
The irony is that I was inspired to write this and ultimately learn to 'switch off' because a tweet from a stranger. What it highlights is that we loose so much every time we try and share an experience online. It is easier to remember a moment if you have a photograph or video of it, but memories will be more valuable if you have that chance to absorb them in the present, not behind a lens, status or tweet.
I'm currently living in the South of France, where the sun is shining, there is a boulangerie down the road, a cafe with great wine on the corner and palm trees in my garden - it's my Shangri-la. Yet I can't stop myself uploading photos onto various social networks to tell people about it, at the same time questioning my reason for doing this. Is it innocently to share a moment or am I being egotistical by showing off? Slowly to a certain extent we are all becoming the latter online, 'that person' who longs to show off to strangers about their life. I remember when I was a kid that I was constantly being told 'don't talk to strangers', yet here we are, interacting daily with people we don't know.
The way we connect with people has changed dramatically over the last five to ten years. Being on holiday or travelling one would usually think to send a postcard with a quick update on life, or write a letter to loved ones back home. Now instead of 'writing a letter', we're 'Whatsapping a friend', instead of 'sending a postcard' we're 'Instagramming a picture.' What is interesting is that it is not just the way we live that is changing but our vocabulary is too.
My Dad's generation don't sit and stress about what to write on someone's Facebook wall for their birthday, they don't panic when they realise that they haven't tweeted for 12 hours, nor do they get caught up on whether their photo of dinner should have the Hudson or X-Pro II filter on Instagram.
I'm still not sure what the answer is, but I believe we would all be much happier if we all switched off for a day.