It’s the end of the first full week of January, that curious part of the calendar where lofty New Year’s resolutions come face to face with the burdens of practicality. More workouts, fewer cigarettes; more love, less drama – these are some standard, vague goals we offer as the holiday seasons fades away. More often than not, they are important yet ill defined, which makes them hard to achieve and easy to move on from.
Beyond mental and physical health, we’ve all a much bigger problem – a slow boiling pot of water that has consumed us unknowingly, allowing our lives to become weird abstractions lacking in authenticity. Or something like that.
Technology, and specifically social media, has at worst destroyed how we communicate and interact, and at best made us really, really annoying dinner companions. But it doesn’t have to be so! When used properly, it can make us all more connected, informed, and engaged.
So while you tend to the gym for a couple more weeks and ease back into the drinking and frivolous spending, here are a few hopefully manageable and certainly reasonable resolutions to make this year. Remember what Steve Jobs famously said: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
That was Spiderman’s uncle Ben, but you get the idea.
No More Ghosting.
I’m not sure exactly when it became commonplace and acceptable, but ending relationships and turning down plans apparently no longer requires communication; all you have to do is go silent (this likely happened about the same time when it become okay to have a conversation with someone in person while also holding a smartphone to your face).
It’s probably happened to you, and you’ve probably done it yourself. Maybe a friend wants to hang out on short notice, or maybe a match on Tinder sends you a message. Instead of responding to a question, you just wait until some time has passed and the person gets the message. Well, that message.
This year, don’t fade away. This selfish, easy practice won’t disappear from our culture entirely, but at least not doing it will help the cause and even surprise a few people. I refuse to believe that we’re not better off hearing someone turn us down directly than not hearing anything at all. Let’s just be a little more honest, a little more engaged, and maybe we won’t be so jaded and bitter all the time. It’s probably going to be really cold some night soon – just admit to the person who wants to go out that you can’t handle the weather and are really lazy. It’s freeing.
Pick Up a Phone
On a similar thread, instead of having a bunch of simultaneous, casual conversations through messaging that start and stop with infrequency, pick up the phone and actually call someone. It’s not as though you can’t multitask while talking on the phone, because you can, but what you will end up with is something maybe slightly more meaningful – and, at the very least more developed.
Sure, it’s going to be awkward the first few times. If you call a friend with whom you have a pretty exclusive texting relationship, they might think tragedy has struck. Also, you’ll have to work on your timing so as not to talk over each other, but you’ll get into a good rhythm with that too. And chances are, if you’re trying to impress a potential date, calling them will set you apart. Yes, that’s what we’ve come to: calling someone makes you a better candidate for a date.
Be More Efficient
Chances are you’re reading this on your browser that has about 5-10 other tabs open. Maybe you’re listening to music, too. At some point, with our heads in our phones and our frantic connected world ingrained with minutiae, we’re losing energy and effectiveness. Twitter and Facebook and smartphones and savvy watches aren’t the problem – all these are just media and devices that are good or bad, tools of efficiency or torpor, based on the users.
There are two things to do in the New Year. Firstly, figure out how to use such tech more effectively. Now, let’s not pretend here that connecting some app to your Facebook will suddenly disclose all your private information you’ve posted. Trust me, it’s already out there. So get rid of any sense of privacy or pretense and let Google or Apple organize everything from your contacts to appointments to your sleep and whatever else you have going on. You’d be surprised how efficient your life becomes.
Secondly, and more importantly, be selective when it comes to your time – specifically, wasting time. Sure, choose your energy wisely day in and day out, but when it comes to wasting time, be careful too; wasting time is definitely a part of one’s day. But in 2016, with those aforementioned open tabs and social media alerts, there is only so much time to waste. So maybe take only one Buzzfeed quiz about which characters from a 70’s British sitcom you most resemble a day; maybe limit the number of Wikipedia links you click on to under 10; let YouTube only randomly select five videos for you.
In a world with so much information and so much access, we are faced with a burden of choice and an embarrassment of entertainment. And embarrassments. So choose wisely.
It may surprise some out there, but there was once a time when people ate brunch, went to bars, did an act of charity, or went on vacation without taking scores of photos and telling everyone they know – and a lot of people they don’t.
So try that! You might be surprised how satisfying it is to do something you enjoy without needing approval and attention from others. Sure, your friends love seeing what you’re up to, and you’ve developed a penchant for pairing the right filter with the right side dish. But maybe not everything in life needs to be catalogued; maybe a song at a concert doesn’t need to be recorded, and maybe a sunset can just be enjoyed without pulling out something electronic to take a photograph. In fact, it’s possible that the beauty of a sunset is only appreciated in person, so what’s the point of a photo anyway? And if you have a really bad memory, then maybe yes, lay off the booze for a bit. Happy New Year!