Social media makes us less social. This is a common argument against social media and the digital world. And there is some accuracy to this. Many of us access the following on our smartphones: Twitter, Facebook, Email (with multiple addresses, whatsapp, LinkedIn, sms, WeChat, BBM, Instagram, Messenger, Skype, Snapchat, Hangouts, etc. If you have push notifications for each, your device probably buzzes, beeps and rings every couple of sections. At the same time, depending on what operating system you are on, these notifications probably pop up on your lock screen, drawing your attention away from whatever you are doing. This poem from Prince Ea puts it aptly.
I have reached the point where I have shut down push notifications for most apps, including email. I decide when, where and for how long I engage with each app. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a social side to social media. There are people halfway across the world I have met digitally and, over time, we have become friends. There are people who, when I have travelled to their side of world, I have met and bonded with; people who transitioned from avatar on a screen for years to flesh across a table over a cup of coffee.
It is possible to have a ‘virtual esprit de corps’ as Eric Whitacre wonderfully defines it in his TED talk from 2011.
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For the people who participated in this, it was an opportunity to feel part of something bigger than themselves as well as to connect with kindred spirits from around the world. They may not have even interacted with each other directly, but they truly connected.
Making sense of this increasingly digitally intrusive gets harder every day. It is about finding balance and being conscious of how much want to put out and take in.
For Virtual Choir 4 which he posted about a year ago, he received 8,409 videos from 5,905 singers who came from 101 countries.