Balancing face-to-face and virtual connections

When I got AIM in high school, I was suddenly thrust into a whole new world that connected me to the goings on of my friends and peers.  My face-to-face conversations were limited by my hearing loss. I am grateful for my hearing loss in a way because it spared me from a lot of teenage drama.

Since then I’ve made online friendships through message board forums, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.  It helps having that instant connection to people on a global scale.  I had a conversation with someone from Belgium in the virtual world, Second Life, about health care in the US vs. Belgium.  It was really cool.

Virtual interactions are also helpful for establishing professional connections.  I’ve done a good bit of networking through email, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Virtual conferences are popping up here and there.  Such a great thing for the mobility-challenged.

I love all this instant connection, but I feel so distracted and fragmented all the time.  I may start to do something, then forget what I intended to do a few seconds later.

This phenomenon is becoming a bigger and bigger issue because people, disabled or not, are losing productivity time by constantly checking email, news sites, and social networks.

I’ve been reading some articles about minimalism, and about how to manage time more effectively.  Zen Habits is a great blog for this topic.

For people with disabilities, technology can go either way.  If it is accessible, then it provides a convenient way to socialize and connect with others, but that may lead to mindless checking and dependence if it isn’t kept in check.  If not, then it leaves them in the dark and they can’t access information or establish important social connections.

So, the key here is acknowledging the issue.  It is REALLY hard to get away from technology now that we have so many options through our phones, tablets, computers and convenient wi-fi locations.

Some great advice from Zen Habits: Simplify.  Only check email and social networks once or twice a day.  Limit yourself to a few social networks.  Personally I’m finding that Facebook has become one big brag and advertisement fest, so there’s no real benefit to being on it anymore.  I never use Pinterest.  I’ve tried a few recipes from it, but they were…meh.

My personal favorite is Twitter.  It keeps status messages short, provides links to interesting articles, and facilitates conversation on both personal and professional levels.  There are a lot of funny parody accounts as well.

I also love GoodReads because I’m a voracious reader.  This is a great way keep lists of books you want to read, and see what others are reading to get ideas.  My reading selection has grown into genres I never would have considered otherwise.

Virtually I can assume a whole new persona free of limitations due to hearing and vision.  I hope to one day live in a place that provides more opportunities for face-to-face meetings on accessibility.

Think about what sites you find useful and enjoy, and try to pare them down to those. This year I will be focusing on cutting excess both in real life and virtually.  I believe my brain will thank me.

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