Living the Absent Life

Every week at least one or two people start following me on
Twitter. This in itself is not a problem – my feed is public and I have nothing
to hide from friend, foe or even Yankee fan.

What I find interesting is that I haven’t posted anything on
Twitter since I signed up for the service when it was still in beta. One look
at my page will make that painfully obvious, so either people 1) are hoping
against hope that I’ll say something important someday, or 2) could care less
about what I have to say and just want to be connected in case I commit
suicide, and as a last-minute plea for attention I broadcast my 140-character cry
for help.

Nothing against Twitter – I think it’s a great service and
have recommended it to clients where it made sense. But as those of you who
follow this blog know, I have enough trouble maintaining Below the Fold, much
less another channel. And besides, if I can’t think of anything important to
say for over a month here, I certainly wouldn’t be able to keep pace with a
Twitter channel, 140 characters per post or not.

Twitter reminds me of the early days of blogging, when posts
about bathroom breaks, travel delays and the cute thing the cat just did
dominated the nascent blogosphere. I distinctly remember a post from Dan
Gillmor
, then and still one of my idols, where he made sure to let everyone
know he would be offline for two hours and not to worry, he would be back and
posting again as soon as possible.

Suffice to say we’ve all gotten more patient. Some early
stars like Jason Calacanis have even stopped blogging altogether. Yet
information has not slowed, outlets have not diminished and the thirst for
being first often quenches being right.

WE LIVE IN A TIME OF PLENTY – plenty good and plenty bad. You
could say the same thing about almost any decade at any time in modern history.
The difference today, I believe, is not so much in what we have, but in what is
missing.

There is the “Digital Life’ that many of us live – certainly
those of us who read blogs, update their Facebook profiles, send texts or record
podcasts. And then there is the Absent Life, the place where we fail to connect
with each other like so many unused Twitter feeds.

The Absent Life is talking to people online without engaging
in a real conversation. It’s about knowing without understanding. The Absent
Life is what goes on around us while we are busy being busy.

It’s the guy on his Blackberry at dinner with his wife. It’s
the person sending e-mail at Midnight when 8 AM would suffice. It’s the excuse
that you can’t afford to disconnect from the Internet, when in fact you are
just disconnecting from the real world. And it’s the dichotomy of wanting to
stay on top of the latest news and trends while also trying to stay on top of
everything else demanding your immediate attention.

Our lives are digital. Our work is digital. And our friends
are digital. Everything we want is at our fingertips. We think we have it all,
because in many ways we do.

Really, we are fortunate. People are making real connections
online, engaging and supporting each other. Media is forging new ground and
taking storytelling to levels never before possible in the world of mere atoms.

The Digital Life is worth living. What we need is a better
way to balance our digital world so we don’t become absent in the real one.

A case in point: a few months ago, a colleague placed a
picture of a little girl in my office. The girl was much younger than my
daughter but about the same age as his. I thanked him for the photo and
commented how cute his daughter looked.

Just one problem – the picture was of my own daughter, taken
years earlier in my own backyard when I was apparently standing nearby. My
little girl, my yard, my life – and not a clue or wisp of memory of my daughter
ever looking that way.

The Digital Life is where I try to be. But the Absent Life
is me.

This entry was posted in Popular Culture, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Living the Absent Life

  1. Eric Weaver says:

    Very moving post – and very melancholy!

  2. Kimberly Neiss says:

    Wow, interesting comment. Found your site when looking up the subject of prayer in school.

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