As I was about to leave for vacation last month, I got an alert that Dot Complicated — Randi Zuckerberg’s book that I’d been anxiously awaiting since meeting and working with her — had downloaded on my new Kindle Fire HD. I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony. For once this new technology in my hands (which was sent to me at no cost as a member of the Dot Complicated Dot Voices community) didn’t seem complicated at all. It seemed awesome. I could tuck this tiny little thing into my diaper bag and have a few books ready to read beach side? Perfection. (Then I remembered a few kids — namely, mine — were traveling with me, so beach-side reading might not really be happening.)
On the plane, I sat alone with Pink, and she did a surprisingly awesome job of keeping herself entertained. She sang (a lot), colored, played with her baby doll. And me? I read. And highlighted. And bookmarked. And nodded. A lot.
While it was fun to read — and relate — to Randi’s career evolution (minus the stock options, I’m afraid) and challenges as a creative type in an industry and location where tech nerds reign supreme, what I really loved was the thought-provoking sections on what role technology plays in our relationships, career, and beyond. The book is packed with great tips, especially for parents who really need to think about the evolving social landscape as we raise our kids, in my opinion.
So, here I was, on a plane, with my family for our first-ever family vacation — just the five of us. I had a choice to make. What role would technology be playing in our time together? Would I be posting pictures of sunsets and tiny feet in the sand, then replying to comments from people far, far away? Or would I just take in the sunsets, admire the squishy toes, and live in the moment with four of the people I love most in the world?
On the plane, I decided it would be the latter. (And, fortunately, a really bad wireless connection at our hotel stopped me the couple times I started to slip.)
Of course I took all those pictures — though fewer than I would have before reading the book and writing for the Dot Complicated site. But I didn’t share them on social media. Not a single family photo on Facebook (and not just because they didn’t turn out so great), or tweet about the amazing hotel service (in hopes that we might get a little perk sent our way).
Being disconnected gave me a chance to really think about the role that technology plays in my life. There are many ways it simplifies things. (Like my new favorite gadget, my Kindle Fire, being the only thing on my bedside table instead of a stack of books constantly reminding me that I’m not only messy, I’m way behind in all the reading I dream of doing.) But there are also many ways it complicates things. (The constant distraction of having email and social media at my fingertips, strangers near and far emailing me with requests for my time and coverage, and so much more.)
After reading Dot Complicated, and reflecting, there were probably 20 lessons I could have applied to my attempts at tech-life balance. But I decided to make things a bit less…well, complicated. I decided to digest and apply as much as possible, while really focusing on one main thing.
Before I blog, post, photograph, and/or share, I ask myself, “Would I care if this showed up on the front page of the newspaper?” (Ok, maybe it should be more like, “Would I care if this showed up on everyone in the world’s Facebook news stream?”) Because the truth of the matter is, once things go online, there’s no taking them back. What we say about our kids, colleagues, strangers, and brands goes out into the world for others to interpret, spin, and bring back to life — any time they want to.
My hope is that if I approach social media with this in mind, I can explain this to my kids as they enter this brave new world, and they’ll follow suit. Because, if you ask me, raising good digital citizens is a huge part of raising good people these days. And Dot Complicated is truly a great reminder of that.
[Speaking of which…I’m hoping to have an uncomplicated, unplugged holiday season too, so if you don’t hear from me, know that I’ll be back soon — with all kinds of great stuff ready to make headlines some day.]
Disclosure: As a member of Dot Complicated’s Dot Voices influencer group, I was sent the Kindle Fire HD at no cost. All opinions are my own.