textingWe've all seen the group of teens sitting silently together at a table texting other people. If you're like me you wonder, what's the point of hanging out with friends when you're just texting someone else or updating Facebook?

But are we all that different from that group of apparently anti-social teens? Aren't we doing the same thing when we reply to a work email when out for dinner or when your entire table checks their phones for the answer to the day's trivia question? I know I've caught myself doing these things.

Hyper-connection means never missing a moment of the Kardashians. It means never missing an email, text, Tweet or status update. But is that a good thing? Are we too connected? And even if the answer is yes, is it even possible to back away from the smartphones and social media and go back to our old-fashioned, face-to-face, voice-to-voice ways?

Social Media Isn't Helping

I will admit I was a Facebook user back in the day when you had to have an ".edu" address just to get an account. It was the coolest thing since Myspace, which isn't saying much now, but back then it was a big deal. It was a novelty to be able to catch up with friends from high school, classmates at school, and co-workers at work.

Little did I know that Facebook was the gateway drug to hyper-connection.

Like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I'm hooked. But I also know I'm being overdosed. I'm happy for my friend who just had a baby, but do I need to see a new picture every day? No, Mom and Dad, I will not be your friend on Facebook even if I can hide my pictures from you. And at the end of the day, do I really need to know what 1,328 friends think about the College Football National Championship Game? Do I really have that many friends?

Of course, I can't quit now, can I? After all, Google had to go and start another social media site, Google+. Now I have LinkedIn for career networking, Facebook for friends, and Google + for ... (Why do I have Google +?) If that's not enough, there's Twitter, which I have to check 50 times a day just in case Texts From Last Night had something funny to say.

My head is spinning from being hyper-connected to things I don't even need in my life. And now they're coming at me at an even faster pace.

You're Being Left in the Dust

Have you seen the AT&T commercial where everything is "soooo 12 seconds ago." That's the industry saying that if you're not plugged in, you're falling behind.

The rollout of 4G networks by AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint has given us broadband-speed on-the-go that almost matches the speed of a home connection.

Yes, I rail against this progress. I claim that what I really need is an old-fashioned cell phone without Facebook or Twitter -- a phone that's so hard to text message on, I give up and call instead. Yes, I want to go back to the simpler days when I called to ask what you were up to or to say I was on my way home.

Even though that's what I want, it won't happen. I'm too connected. I'll use work as an excuse to Tweet and I'll admit that it's easier to text my friends to figure out plans for the night. And what would I do without those stupid games to fill up the extra time in my life? It's not like I read books anymore!

The electronics industry has drawn me in with its shiny gadgets and its lightning-fast information at my fingertips. I'll remember the days with my old-school cell phone and the conversations I once had. But if you want to reach me, you'll find me floating somewhere in the G+LinkedTwitterFace social media universe. There's no escaping it.

Motley Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Apple, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple.


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18 Comments

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frank1946

Social networking is OK, if you need it !

And you can pay for it.

Teens like it alot, a stage of Life ?

January 24 2012 at 6:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
johnebare

Travis, really, your parents aren't welcome on your Facebook page? I'm betting your parents have seen it all, done it all and regretted it all and you don't have a clue. You have 1,328 "friends" and not a one would stand by you like your parents..don't believe me..go broke, get arrested, lose your girlfriend, need a sofa to sleep on, a shoulder to cry on...see who steps up.

January 23 2012 at 3:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
T Rock

No Facebook, No smart phone No problem - I have a home phone and e-mail - and REAL friends I see and talk to

January 23 2012 at 11:39 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to T Rock's comment
Mickylitz

T Rock .. I am with you...
I see so many glued to their electronic devices , they ractually look intellectually limited....

January 23 2012 at 12:36 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Stanley

Warnning everyone when I clicked onto this page my ESET NOD32 antivirus caught a GE Trojan and isolated it someone in this page isn't playing nice!

January 23 2012 at 10:44 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jamiemvanlooy

Check work email out at dinner? Daily trivia question? You are brainwashed.I turned off my facebook, and frequently leave my cell phone off/don't answer. When some neurotic person calls excessively because they are upset that "they know you are not answering on purpose!" you know, "blowing up your phone" probably will never get a return call back from me unless it was a real and verified emergency. I may never speak to that person again. I count this as more than 3 calls in a 5 minute period, just relax and leave a message it's not just all about you.

January 23 2012 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Frank

I do not use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc and am perfectly happy with my life. I do have a "smart" phone from which I will text/email when necessary and Oh yes...make phone calls. It also has many other apps which are really not necessary (for me at least) and my everyday life. Too many people are teathered to their devices and seems they can't go 5 minutes without checking them. Almost like an addiction if you ask me. I also don't need my "likes" , preferences etcc out there for all to see. As I see it, it's my privacy and does anyone really care if I "like" something.

January 23 2012 at 9:29 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
azsunnlover

I don't get the tweeting thing, is what you are doing so important that you think all your friends really care?
Got somethng to say, just text it to a couple buddies, or, hey, remember email?

January 23 2012 at 9:07 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
docmetcalf1955

i can't just quit? you are wrong travis, i can, and did.

January 23 2012 at 8:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ron

Very interesting article. The answer is YES you can and I would almost go so far is yes you can and yes you should. If we value our careers our lives our indepence, and most of all our privacy we must end our addiction to the likes of Facebook. The other day my wife and I decided for our own sanity and peace of mind and privacy to deactivate our facobook accounts. That alone required a Masters Degree in Information Technology. After deactivating our accounts we have found that there are a lot of traps out there and e-mails coming in luring us back into the the snake pit.through various rouses and back doors. We have received some innocuous e-mals we have received which directed us back into Facbook and inadvertantly reactivated our accounts unkwowingly. I immediately went back in the appropriate facebook settings and deatctivated the accounts once again.
What is most dangerous is, that we all end up speaking out loud to a group of strangers and friends and their friends. I found myself voicing my opinions, frustrations, anger, sadness and fears and having some of these thrown back in my face by family and friends. Oh of course you can traverse all the different filters within Facebook and block this one and that one but in the end it means nothing once you are caught up in the snake pit.
It was getting to the point that we were getting phonce calls at all hours of the day and night from friends, family and associates telling us things like "did you hear what your daughter said about you on facebook just a little while ago?" etc etc. and di you see the photo of this one and that one together or did you see the this and that? Facebook and other places like it were invented with good intentions just like the road to hell was and is paved with good intentions. I detest gossip columns and people who talk behind my back and it is for that reason I have quit and plan on staying quit. If I want to be reached I have my private e-mail and I have a telephone. Isn't that enough? Enough is enough and too much of this is beginning to stink and become potentially quite hazardous to my health and well being and sanity.
Aside from all I have said social media sites are definitely "addictive". It all brings about the voyeur in all of us. Peering into the lives of family, friends, spouses and co-workers. Is nothing sacred anymore? When you find yourself awakened in the middle of the night with a notification that someone has just left a post on Facebook then we should all be saying to ourselves STOP...For Goodness sakes STOP. Yes you can and yes most definitely many of us should and CAN !!!!!!

January 22 2012 at 9:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Chief_blamestormer

You can gain a real advantage by not being buried by electronic distractions: lower insurance rates from fewer car accidents, higher grades in school from actually learning in class, better pay and promotions for original thinking and creativity at work. My favorite is to go against the more electronically synchronized herds of investors and take their money by watching what they believe, and acting against them since they won't know what I think (I'm not connected).

January 22 2012 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply