May I so boldly suggest that this Thanksgiving, we focus on one-on-one conversations, instead of broadcasting our lives to the masses.
Yes, I do mean eating your Thanksgiving dinner instead of live-updating from the table. And calling or Skyping a loved one directly instead of shouting “Happy Thanksgiving” to your followers. This year, let’s take a day off from sharing our every thought and feeling with the world. Give thanks for the people in your life by giving them your undivided attention. The most meaningful thing we have to give is our time. Stop broadcasting and start listening.
In my recent book, Dot Complicated, I talk a lot about how tech brings us closer to friends but can also keep us further from friendship. Thanksgiving is a great time to let go of the constant distractions that keep us from connecting on a deeper level. When we focus on listening to others, it’s easier to break through the carefully crafted online image and get to know the actual person inside.
The tech that keeps us happily connected throughout the year can separate us come holiday season, or even get us in trouble, as I discovered this past Christmas after quickly uploading a funny family photo. I find myself robotically scrolling through my feeds rather than having a deep conversation with one of my sisters. The kids play on Mommy’s phone instead of singing karaoke or stomping on leaves outside. People share videos at the table regularly, rather than telling an animated story. And I know my family isn’t much different than anyone else in this digital era.
We spend so much of the year wishing we were together and then spend that precious time together checking in with other people online. I don’t mean to do it, and when I catch myself I immediately put the phone down. But it’s a habit that more and more of us can’t seem to break. It’s really, really hard to stop. We’re not gonna change this behavior all at once — you might be the only one at your table who doesn’t occasionally sneak a peek at their phone. But good behavior is contagious. This year, challenge yourself to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Initially, I was going to suggest a total Internet black-out for Thanksgiving, but a tech boycott isn’t the answer. Our devices and our social networks do keep us connected, when we use them thoughtfully. It’s pretty amazing that I can see a relative’s face from across the country, or see photos instantly from a special event I wasn’t able to attend. Tech connects us when we use it mindfully.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving (and, for some of us, Hanukkah) celebrations with the people — not the things — that matter most.