Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
So how many people did you see today? How many friends did you talk to? And what about family? Okay, now how many of those “meetings” or conversations were in person? If you’re like most of us, all or most of those interactions happened online or on a phone.
We live in the days of virtual everything. Virtual meetings, virtual travel, and sadly, even virtual friends. But after awhile, all that electronic communication doesn’t feel like it’s enough. We need to spend time in person with real people who matter to us. If you’re feeling disconnected from real connections, here are ten simple ways to keep it real in the digital age.
10. Have a party
It doesn’t have to be elaborate or take weeks to plan. Just invite some of those friends you miss (and maybe some new people you’ve wanted to get to know), turn on the music and put out some food. Make it feel special by ordering inexpensive invitations — skip the evites and opt for real paper ones you drop off or mail.
9. Join groups for activities you like
Something as simple as gathering with a group of local people for a hike, a festival or a class can turn a pretty solitary activity into a way to share the experience with other people. Join Meetup.com and search for groups based on your interests. Or look for postings on grocery store or bookstore bulletin boards or in your local newspaper. Doing something locally is a wonderful way to step out of the “seeing it somewhere else online” trap.
8. Look for local alumni chapters
If you went to a college or university, there’s a good chance there’s an alumni chapter in or near your town. Joining provides you with a chance to talk about shared memories of your school, even if you didn’t attend at the same time. And putting on a school t-shirt then cheering for the team on game day or heading out for an alumni night sure beats joining your school’s Facebook page and spending an evening reading posts!
7. Date your spouse
I recently read an article that said that husbands and wives are communicating more via email and text than face to face! That’s scary! If you want to keep your marriage strong and real in the digital age, you need to put down the phones and tablets and spend time out together. Make a once a week date night, and set aside some electronics-free time during the week, too.
6. Schedule one on one outings with your kids
It’s great that you’re friends with your kids on Facebook. And kudos for staying up to date on their Instagram stream. But when was the last time you spent more than the drive to school or sports practice alone with each child?
Make it a priority to schedule a just you two time at least once a month with each child. It could be dinner out, a trip to a local attraction. Or it could be as simple as a walk or time on the playground. Leave the phones off and stash the earbuds. This is about making real-life memories.
5. Keep pictures real
So how often do you use filters or editing apps to make your selfies and snapshots look prettier, cooler or more stylish? Those edited images you’re sharing aren’t the real you…or your real life. Dare to let your far-away friends and family see the real you, your real kids and yes, even those messy rooms. Let them see you as they would if they were at your door, instead of some sanitized, fictional version. Now that’s keeping it real!
4. Set time limits on screens
It’s so easy to spend too much screen time. We go from computer to phone, tablet to television, and then back again. Before we know it, almost our entire day has been spent in a digital world.
Instead of letting technology run our days. rein it in by setting time limits. Use a kitchen time, a watch or even the alarms on your electronics to remind yourself to put down the device and do something here and now. Go for a walk, play with the dog, make a cup of tea. Or pick up a real paper book and start reading. Just give your brain a tech break.
3. Meet your neighbors
Unless you live way out in the country, you probably have neighbors. And let me guess. You probably don’t know most (or all) of them. Your real life neighbors (as opposed to those on Farmville) are people who could become friends. But that won’t happen if you hole up with your computer after work and on weekends.
Start getting to know the people who live near you and break the cycle. Plan a block party. Leave surprise neighbor gifts on porches during the holidays. Or just start a conversation while you’re walking your dog or mowing the lawn. From a few words, a friendship could be born.
2. Join a church, temple or mosque
One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen lately is virtual religion online. Virtual confession. Virtual High Holiday services. Virtual Friday prayer.
Of course prayer and religious meditation can (and sometimes should) be done in private. But digital versions are neither solitary nor communal. They’re a sad substitute for both.
When you’ve had your solitary experiences, there is a tremendous value in being a part of a community of people who share your faith. It’s a wonderful way to remind yourself that we are part of something much bigger than the latest Facebook meme or Twitter trends. So head out to Mass. Or join in communal prayer at a mosque, ashram or temple.
1. Get a pet
A dog or cat keeps you grounded in the real world. They need to go for walks and get fed. They need litter boxes cleaned out and they need play time. Pets can cuddle — computers and tablets can’t. Pets need us. Phones and televisions don’t. Pets are the ultimate way to keep it real every day.
We may think we have everything we need online. But when it’s time to keep it real, there’s nothing like real people, real experiences and real places to make life worth while.