Balancing Your Physical and Virtual Life (Tip #1)

Da-ding, Da-ding!  Is that your phone notification of something incoming?  Hadn’t you better check it?

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Over the past few years, as more people utilize smart phones for instant access to information and communication, I keep running into the same concerns.  Time and time again, a new smart phone owner will tell me “It has changed my life!”  Then, I observe them exit our physical reality to enter the “other places” that await us on mobile devices: news sites, social media, photos, memes, content creation tools, curation applications and innovation entertainment activities- just to name a few.

We all see it everywhere we look….people staring into screens.  Yet, what do we reach for the moment we awaken each day?  Our phones.  How do we feel when we forget our phone at home?  I have heard people say they feel everything from vulnerability to actual fear.  

Just where IS everyone heading?  I took this picture on the bus because everyone near me was on a mobile device.  Nobody was “on the bus” with me!

Eric Pickersgill, an artist who photographs digital culture, shares some haunting images at Removed.  We all see people “removed from our world” every day.  I have heard jokes about the zombies around us- people who are not really with us.

My daughter, a tech savvy creative and intelligent young woman, recently suggested I write a blog post with tips on balancing physical and virtual life!  She had not heard of FOMO and realized she had personally felt that sensation (FOMO= fear of missing out) that her phone was beckoning her to a world beyond….a world where important things were happening.  The world beyond our physical surroundings, on our digital devices, takes us to a place where boredom no longer exists and where we can be both active and passive with no rules or constrictions.  Yet, deep in our souls, we feel a slight discomfort (if not horror) knowing that we can never master keeping up with the incoming and never really exit the small reality of our tiny individual life.

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Which leads me to BALANCE TIP #1 Intentional Disconnection Time

Find a time to leave your device and do not touch it!  Schedule yourself a PHYSICAL WORLD ONLY time, if only an hour a day.  During that time, focus on physical reality:  deep breaths, trees, textures, hot tea, smiles, and your five senses.

You could add prayer, yoga, meditation, or a walk outdoors, or even housework!  But, the idea here is to be consciously disconnected.  While connecting with others across distance is an amazing new opportunity, it can overtake and overwhelm us unless we can find a balance between the physical and the virtual world.

Contemplate your disconnection time.  This may seem too obvious or too easy.  But it really isn’t when you think about it.  Our phones are always with us and it takes intentional effort to disconnect for a period of time.

More tips to come!

 

Marking a Digital Decade

Ten years ago in April, I posted on my blog for the very first time. What a significant decade… a transformation not only for me but for all of us, as we moved from primarily being physical world citizens in local communities to become digital citizens on a global scale.

Highlights of my Digital Decade

Exploring virtual worlds

Shortly after starting my blog, I entered virtual worlds for use as a library and information science professional. Life in networked culture became the main focus of my blog and virtual worlds (for education) became my research focus. I earned my PhD in Library Science in 2012. DrHillatGraduation

At first, I found virtual worlds a unique and almost unbelievable experience. After meeting the librarians in Second Life, I used the experience to enhance my academic journey and my dissertation was “Factors Contributing to the Adoption of Virtual Worlds by Librarians”.

Observing students in my school library, as well as individuals everywhere on digital devices in coffee shops and on streets, I began to realize we all live in virtual worlds– whether or not we enter them with an avatar.

Building a PLN

Even the brilliant experts of computer science and metadata are struggling with concepts of cybersecurity, privacy and digital citizenship.  Currently, the FBI is working on how to get through encryption to fight crime, parents are concerned about the future for children in a world that is dependent upon digital information, and the tools we use are constantly changing.

The benefits of networked society are huge but so too are the problems it presents.  A PLN (Profession or Personal Learning Network) has become imperative to understanding life in digital culture.  I wonder, though, if we put too much emphasis on following our PLN blindly.  When I click “agree” to the lengthy TOS (terms of service) on apps, I justify my lack of knowledge about the legalese and shrug it off thinking, “I know Mr. X, Ms. Q, and Mrs. K Teacher all use this app so it must be okay.”

I have found most people are generous, helpful, and willing to share knowledge and information.  Twenty years ago, my learning community was a small local group but today it is gigantic and spreads across the globe. Do we really understand the enormity of this?  I don’t think it is possible to realize the consequences of toppling of the information hierarchy which happened so abruptly at the close of the Gutenberg Parenthesis.

The Power of Twitter

Currently, Twitter exemplifies the power of connectivity in digital culture. Everyone has a voice.  Through key words (hashtags) those voices can be heard instantly across the planet.  Very few people have had any training at all in using the power of Twitter and (IMHO) most of the content is trivial, disposable media, such as humorous memes, gifs, and witticisms.  The potential to utilize the power of networked culture for high quality deep learning and edification is buried under millions of tweets. Digital citizens are challenged to dig for buried treasure.

What will the next decade bring?

Sometimes, when I discuss digital citizenship, I see fear in the faces of parents or learners who see themselves becoming “addicted to screens”.  It is certainly too late to put the Internet cat back in the bag!  Networked connectivity happened without providing a training.

My tips for coping with “the online sea of chaos” over the next decade:

  1. Take digital citizenship seriously
  2. Strive to share only positive meaningful information
  3. Continue building a PLN both for learning and teaching
  4. Recognize the need for time to unplug, reflect and appreciate the physical world
  5. Seek solutions that always provide hope and reduce fear

Here’s to the next decade: Less fear- More hope! 

fear

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hope

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