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Nadworny: Being There

(Host) Commentator and digital strategist Rich Nadworny was always taught that sharing was a good thing. But in today's social media age,he's wondering if there's too much of a good thing.

(Nadworny) In January I was part of a group experimenting with live tweeting a concert at the Flynn Center. The Flynn invited a number of us who are active on social media to sit in the balcony and send out updates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram while we watched a great guitar concert with David Hidalgo and Marc Ribot.

It was a very fun and interesting experience. And it reminded me of some challenging questions for us in this digital age we live in.

For example, all of us were trying to enjoy the concert.After all, it was free and we were sitting in the first row balcony, perhaps the best seats in the house. On the other hand, using our smart phones, we were also trying to share what was happening during the concert. One of the problems with sharing is that we like to see what kind of reaction we get.

So we had to then check our phones to see if anyone responded or retweeted what we published. Usually it was the other tweeters,sitting next to us. It started a back channel conversation happening with people sitting right next to you, in the dark.

We see this more and more in every day life. We're only paying attention in short bursts, so we can then share what we've seen. While I love sharing, this also means that I'm intentionally missing what's happening around me. It becomes absurd when you have to read someone else's tweet to find out what happened in front of you because you were too busy sharing.

It reminds me somewhat of the role a camera plays for a photojournalist. The camera provides a safe distance for the photographer. They are not actively participating in the life around them; they're simply documenting it. For some, especially war correspondents, that distance is crucial.The question is whether our smart phones play the same role for us sharers:providing distance between real life and us. Is it more important that we alacl t as virtual anthropologists, documenting the life around us rather than actually experiencing it?

I was at a concert at the Flynn the night before the tweeting concert. We watched Paco Pena's Flamenco group. It was an evening of intense music, dancing and emotion. And while it was something surely worth sharing, I was glad I had nothing in between the performers and me. All of us in the audience allowed ourselves to be swept up in the moment.

A seminal book on spirituality encouraged us to Be Here Now. The question is: where are we? While digital technologies make it easier to share, they also can inhibit the quality of what we're sharing. Maybe Firesign Theater put best it in one of their great comedy albums when they asked the question: How Can You Be In Two Places a tOnce, When You're Not Anywhere At All?

Rich Nadworny is a designer who resides in Burlington and Stockholm.
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