A few weekends ago, after celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, I headed to my hometown of Peabody, MA for my 30th year high school reunion. Although I was excited to catch up with old friends, there was also a part of me that was skeptical of the whole thing. Even though there were almost 600 kids in my class, I felt like I was already up to date with most of them.
Unlike the 10 or 15 year reunion, where I was literally seeing some people for the first time in many years and learning about the changes in their lives, I was now fairly up to speed via daily postings on Facebook and Instagram. I new what they looked like, what their kids looked like, where they went on vacation, who they spend time with and, for many, their political preferences.
However, I’m glad I went. In fact, it was a refreshing reminder that social media is not real life. Or, at the very least, it is just one perspective on it (although a potentially warped one). And, unlike the previous reunions, where much of the time was spent pulling out photos of spouses and kids who we had never seen or met before, we we were able to quickly get into more meaningful conversations about life and reminisce about our childhood.
Although, I do not physically see many of my friends from high school very often, I cherish them as some of the most influential and important relationships in my life. We grew up together. We matured together (somewhat). We experienced infinite “firsts” together. We got into trouble together. We were part of one another’s families – we knew each other’s brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents and pets. And, most importantly, we spent time together – real one-on-one time where we actually spoke words and sentences as opposed to texting acronyms. We looked in each other’s faces and saw real emotions as opposed to emojis. And, we actually put our arms around one another instead of electronic devices. This is how real relationships are made. And, this is perhaps why, although time and distance have come between us, the depth of the relationships remain.
In leaving the reunion, I made a promise to myself to spend more physical time with my friends, colleagues and, most of all, my family. While I’m never going to go cold turkey with my phone, my computer, social media or Words with Friends, I am going to make a conscious effort to do less of it. I’m embarrassed to say that, after asking my 9-year old son if he wanted to read Harry Potter together the other day, he looked at my wife and whispered, “Why is daddy acting so weird?” That hurt. Life is short. The saying used to go, “no one ever lies on their death bed saying I wish I spent more time at work.” Well, no one will lie on their death bed saying I wish I spent more time on Facebook either.
So, put down the phone for a while. Close the computer. Grab a loved one, friend or colleague and enjoy life in real life. A text message, email, comment on on social media or even a phone call is a nice way to stay connected. But the best way to truly build a relationship is to spend time with someone.
My New Year resolution: more face time and less screen time – especially at home. What’s yours?
Have a great day. I hope to see you soon! In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the next chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.