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Author's profile photo Former Member

What does “Being Present” Mean in the Age of Social Media? And the Myth of Multi-Tasking

My name is Natascha Thomson, and I am a social media addict.


I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Jive on a regular basis (my husband would say “excessively”). I have many apps on my BB. I have TweetDeck installed on my work PC and on my MAC. I just got an iPad and ordered an iPhone…


Recently, I announced on FB that I was taking the weekend off from social media to “withdraw” from my addiction. I got a few “ha, who are you kidding” comments, but I was able to do it, yes! (ok, I did read a few FB & Twitter notifications on my BB but did not respond). It WAS HARD! And (as my husband pointed out), not drinking for two days does NOT proof that you are not an alcoholic. But I love it!


Let’s step back in time for a moment. In November 2008, I wrote the blog: Is Web 2.0 Driving Us Crazy? lamenting the value of many a social media tool. I did not get the value of using social media at all.


The blog now makes me smile. I so did not get it then. Social media rocks. It’s where I get my news and build and maintain a huge part of my network.


Unfortunately, I now can also finally relate to this NYT article: In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop that was in my 2008 blog. I laughed about it then. Now I am worried about the effect social media might have on my health (as is my husband). My concern was confirmed by the NYT article: YOUR BRAIN ON COMPUTERS; Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price. I feel that social media helps me to get so much more done in a day. But am I delusional?


A related question that I have been pondering a lot lately is: Can we Multi-Task and Be Present?

Ironically, I recently had this discussion with a friend via Twitter while sitting at Starbucks. As I was at Starbucks and she on her friend’s couch in another city, were we both together in the present?


I conducted a little survey on what people consider “being in the present” and found the following: The one thing that seems to make us human feels that somebody is 100% present is eye contact. Simply because if somebody looks at you and speaks, it’s the closest you can get to knowing that they are paying attention and engaging.


We have learned to communicate fairly well on the phone, even though anybody who attends a lot of conference calls knows that sharing a phone line does not equal being “present”. It seems that everybody is checking their email these days on these calls, and when called upon says: “Can you repeat that question?” So the phone is only a sure communication tool when it’s one-on-one.


Now, looking at Twitter, FB or LinkedIn, we have absolutely no idea what else a person is doing while they are communicating with us, especially as it is not a continuous stream of conversation. We don’t have any context, and I sometimes find that disconcerting. People could be anywhere, doing anything, while typing on their mobile devices. The conversation with me could be a side note.


As we can’t see or hear the person, we have no read on their true level of engagement and emotions. Are they present? So in communication, can we only be sure of our counterpart being “present” when we can see them?




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      Author's profile photo Moya Watson
      Moya Watson
      Thanks for the excellent musings, Natascha, and very important reminders.

      Who is it that said the biggest gift we can give any other person is our presence?  As hooked in as I am to the extent that I might trip off the curb or bump into people on the sidewalk, those moments when I remind myself to look at the sky, to breathe, to make eye-contact with *people* - are key to my existence.

      Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, put it another way in 2008 at the Web 2.0 Summit: "Are we more or less authentic when we're always online?" While many of us prize social media for just that way it lets us be and share our authentic selves, especially for political figures who have to contantly withstand scrutiny of every word, it can be a liability.

      No answers here... just a comment on a blog post ... online -- but since you and I are not in the same city, at least I can know you in this way!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Moya, thanks for the Gavin Newsom quote. I will ponder it for a while. And you are right, I have made a lot of connections via Twitter and gotten to know people better I would otherwise not have the opportunity to be close to. The question is where to draw the boundaries.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Dear Natascha,
      Appreciate your efforts and observation in the blog here. I totally agree that nothing can match a human touch. But in the present context when it is really very much impossible to be present everywhere, we do get an option to be Virtually Present!!
      Say for example while sitting at Starbucks you were able to get in touch with a friend who was in another city that time. If it was not that mode of communication (twitter) you could have not made it at all. Talking to her via something is better than nothing. The issue is when you get too much into the social media concept and start ignoring opportunities of personal touch considering a virtual presence as an option but certainly a virtual touch can never replace a personal touch.
      I too am addicted to social media these days and find it really hard to avoid it now 🙂 your blog gives me chance to rethink on that may be!!

      Wish you luck for future posts!

      Warm Regards,

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Gaurav, thanks for your thoughtful & honest comments. You make some really good points! Let me know if you find the "cure" to social media addiction :-).
      Author's profile photo Mark Finnern
      Mark Finnern
      Hi Natasha,

      I looked, but I was not able to find the YouTube video that I once saw of a guy in his early 20s a gamer.

      He opens up with I have almost 20 miles on my car, that is about 5K less than I have driven in my games.

      Sometimes, when the weather is nice, I role down the window of my car and I feel the warm air, the sun sets in the distance and I think, this is almost as good as in the game.

      That just floored me, he was very sincere for him real live could not compete with the experience he has in games.

      With the games getting better the scale tips even further into that direction.

      We are living in interesting times, Mark.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Wow. Talk about extremes. Interesting story...
      Author's profile photo Matthias Steiner
      Matthias Steiner
      Excellent blog Natascha. Not much to add here (left my thoughts elsewhere) but wanted to subscribe to the feedback. 🙂
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      LOL 🙂 Thanks!
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Replying with meaningful comments, responding to a question, even adding the occasional

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I know one thing, that I feel that your commenting on my blog is a present :-).

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Warm regards, see you in Vegas, baby,