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28 Jul 2011 / Julie

“687 friends on facebook” (or, some thoughts on first world problems)

Clearly the commercial had brand impact with me since i had to ask around and search for it to find it again but have you seen this commercial? It’s 31 seconds, take a gander:

With the exception of the Volkswagen commercial (which is just damned adorable), i can’t stand car commercials (well, all commercials but car commercials tend to annoy me way more than usual). But this Toyota commercial is BRILLIANT.

We see a fairly – vapid isn’t the right word- girl sitting at her laptop with all her vintagey-feel items behind her on the bookshelf (which i bet were bought at Target instead of at a thrift store or passed down or handmade) talking about how her parents basically aren’t getting the modern idea of friends and socializing- clearly, since they only have 19 facebook friends and she’s got 687.

I love this commercial so much because it states REALLY CLEARLY a) what older adults think of us (us = the millennial’s, screenagers, etc) and b) what i think is all sorts of wrong with the world today (world = first world, obviously).

I hear conversations on the metro, in the grocery store and in the ether about facebook and, as the commercial puts it, “cute puppies” instead of – oh i don’t know – the debt ceiling, Oslo, what we can be doing about making the world a better, more awesome, safer, more educated, and equal place. Conversations are happening about things that didn’t happen in physical space and time and we’ve relabeled the not important, not urgent stuff as both urgent and important (okay yes technically, the internet is physical space and time, but you know what i’m trying to say, right?)

Okay, i know plenty of people (those i usually choose to associate myself with) who *are* discussing the big things and not just the “like omigod, he totally did this and then i said this and omigod how’s my hair” crap but i’m being harsh to illustrate a point. The commercial (to me) speaks of two issues: the fact that we (us youngin’s) have incorrectly redefined “socializing” and that we’re giving too much thought and time over to the crap that doesn’t matter. (*cough* Farmville *cough*).

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you:

You swipe open your device and look at it. It didn’t buzz, blink, or chirp but it calls to you. You check twitter, facebook, your email, tumblr, etc looking for new information – clearly in the intervening minute and a half since you put it down, something earth shattering must have happened? You flip through and tag an article to read later (not even now, when clearly you have nothing better to do), favorite someone’s witty tweet about their cat, and upload a photo you took last night of yourself at the computer. You go back and refresh twitter, fb, and your email. Nothing new. You pause because you’re not sure what to do with yourself now. (i have some suggestions).

If any of that sounded even remotely familiar  i suggest you put your device in a drawer and go for a walk. To maybe even pay attention to your to do list and start checking things off it.

We’ve let our devices and the technology define us instead of using the devices and technology to do what we do best, better.

The internet and other technologies could allow me to live in a box, devoid of sunlight, and order and pay for everything i needed – food? delivered. bills? paid. entertainment? enjoyed (maybe). But no where in there are other humans. The more i don’t interact with other people, the more i start to feel like i exist alone and the more self centered, self serving, etc i get – which leads to a lack of civility (why be nice when i’m the only one who matters?), increase in greed (it’s all about me), and increase in destructive actions (i’m above the law, i wont get caught, no one will know, etc).

Call me old school (or just plain old at the ripe old age of 28-again), but I think paying more attention to the physical will help us solve a lot of problems we’ve found ourselves in lately. Environmental issues relating to agriculture problems, feed lots, and the commercialization of the family table? Fixable when you start riding your bike to the farmers market and talking to the people who grow your food.

Now, i’m not saying the internet and our devices are bad (if it wasn’t for the internet, i’d be out of a job), i’m just saying we should use them to work for us, instead of letting them rule our lives. And for the love of Pete – to put them down every so often.

I recently had a conversation with my mother about communication – and when i mentioned how in the (actual) old days prior to answering machines (yes kids! machines!), when someone called and you weren’t home, you never knew! And you just weren’t available! My mom (strangely) came back with something along the lines of “but that’s not how it works today and when i call, i expect you to answer!” (i knew i shouldn’t have let them give me a cell phone to go to college with).

We talk of information overload (here, here, here, and here – to name a few… even though i just think it’s filter failure) and fail to realize that it’s quite simple to solve it – step away from the computer/tablet/smartphone/etc and go talk to some real, physical, face to face humans.

Perhaps it’s just that we (at least i do) work in a very in-your-head profession. We do lots of sitting, thinking, collaborating, reading, etc. It’s brain work. And at some point your brain needs something else.

In the last few months I’ve had almost a standing date with some friends to go see a movie (usually non-mainstream) and have dinner. It’s these interactions – the eating, the walking around town, the breathing in different air and seeing different sights that allows my brain the space to think differently.

I hear friends whining about their lives and then i see them tweet/post about how many episodes of Deadliest Catch they just finished watching. To quote the best poster ever, “If you don’t have enough time, stop watching tv.” Get out and go do something.

Okay so what’s my point? My point(s) are that we need to remember there are bigger things out there – that community (physical community too!) matters – and that the technology should be working FOR us, not the other way around.

On that note, i’m going to leave my computer, get on a plane, and go visit some humans for the weekend.

here are the other commercials, clearly making fun of us, making fun of them: Missing Them, Messages, Commute, Cross-Country

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