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Bringing Back Recess

Yesterday was one of those unusually cool autumnal days we don’t see a lot of this time of year in South Carolina. The kind of weather that compels you to slow down and take note of the world. The choreography of leaves dancing in the wind. A man walking a matching pair of dogs down the sidewalk. The sound of footsteps over a gravel path. It was the kind of day that compels neighbors to stop, wave and say hello instead of just passing by. As I sat in my car, stopped at a red light, I noticed two men sitting on a downtown bench. They were two people who appeared to be from very different walks of life. On the left, an older man in a suit. On the right, a younger man with dreadlocks almost to his waist–and a style most of us here have come to closely associate with Asheville. Despite their differences, they appeared to be engaged in a pleasant exchange. The kind that takes place when two strangers decide to embrace an usually autumnal day and happen to come to a rest on the same bench.

In the sixty seconds I sat at the light watching those two men, a realization came over me. Most everyone has some sort of social media skills these days, but social skills are going extinct. We do a lot of talking, but we don’t make much time for conversation. We interact a lot, but connection is becoming rare.

Go find a park bench at lunch today. Take a walk with a colleague to get a cup of coffee. Talk with someone for five minutes. Your day and your heart will thank you. Take a break and GO TO RECESS! (In case you haven’t heard, recess is back.)

Twitter will still be there when you get back.

I promise.

The Art of Being Alone

Welcome to a world where the only places a person “checks in” are hotel lobbies and airports. A place where badges are earned by police detectives and boy scouts. The birds here are not angry, and they not only tweet, but chirp. When we have a conversation, we speak in as many characters as we like. When we like something, we say so by smiling. We still think poking is terribly rude. It began with a simple e-mail.

“Dear friends,

Hope this e-mail finds you well. This message is just to advise you that after some introspection, I have decided to begin a social media fast of undetermined length. I welcome you to call me at 614-555-5555 any time.”


And just like that, a page was torn out of FaceBook, Flickr was flicked off and one little corner of the Twittersphere went black. The plug had been pulled on social media.

Left with no choice, I did the unthinkable - I picked up the phone and dialed. Once I had adequately chastised his hasty departure from the social media social scene, I pressed my friend for the details of his self-imposed hiatus.

The rationale was quite simple: He wanted to spend more time focusing on the real social connections in his life. He wanted to spend less time on Facebook and more time with faces and books.

My inner social media lover immediately began seeking a loophole in his logic. As someone who avidly uses Skype, Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with family and friends, I think there is an argument to be made that social media can strengthen real social connections in our lives if we’re committed to using to do so, but is it ultimately at the detriment of those relationships in real time? Does it matter how many adoring Facebook message you’ve left on a friend’s wall if you’re distracted by text messages and tweets when you finally get the chance to sit down to dinner together?

Is social media becoming an insecurity blanket we carry with us everywhere we go?

Curious, I set forth on a mission to read up on other people’s motivations for going off the grid. What I discovered is that they missed the late night backyard conversations. They missed the simple pleasure of chatting over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee with a friend. They missed taking time out to slow down on a Sunday and meet up for brunch. Story after story, what I heard is that by chattering with everyone online, people felt like they were connecting with no one offline, including themselves.

Last weekend a woman pulled up beside me at stoplight. She immediately pulled out her iPhone and began typing. I don’t know if she was tweeting or texting or checking in at “stuck in traffic” on FourSquare, but it struck me as truly ridiculous. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, was the thought of 60 seconds spent enjoying the solitude and quiet of her own good company really so daunting?

I stumbled across an awesome video this week called “How to Be Alone,” an art many of us have forgotten - and some of us have never learned. It’s a testament to the value of being present in our lives - with others and with ourselves.


90% of Word of Mouth happens offline, because life happens offline. Get to know the people you love offline. Get to know yourself offline. Practice pulling the plug on your online life now and then in order to plug into the people, memories, conversations and moments that are your one and only real life.

My wish for you this weekend? A little alone time, a little offline time, more faces and books.


Originally posted on the Brains on Fire Blog