I didn’t write a single word while I was in Kenya.
I snapped over 3000 photos and videos. I updated Twitter and Facebook and Path in the morning or the evening when I had access. But I did not sit down to write like this at all during my 21 days outside of the United States. I started to a couple of days, and could never get past the first sentence. Because I was trying to write it here. And here felt very far away, someplace else.
Raw and exposed are two words I’d use to describe my emotions while in Kenya. My surroundings, both the people and the place, provided the perfect vehicle for allowing my heart to overtake my mind. So I ran with it. Many times during a day I would find myself simply staring at my children as they played with their Kenyan sisters, or looking out the window of the car as we sped by area after poverty stricken area looking at the faces of people who seemed every bit as happy as the faces I see out the window of my car in Santa Clarita or Huntington Beach, CA. In fact, in many ways, they seemed happier, or at least more connected.
Life in the now.
What I noticed, more than anything, was how much conversation was taking place. Nobody was buried in their smart phone, furiously posting a status update about where they were or what they were doing. They were just there. They were just doing it. Nobody was trying to spark a pseudo-conversation with people they couldn’t see or touch in the moment. They were talking to the people around them. They were talking to the people WITH them.
One night I allowed myself to come back to this world fully and engage with Facebook and Twitter for a few hours. I had figured out a way to get unlimited data on our Safaricom card and set up a wireless network from my laptop so we could use our iPhones. The next morning my wife asked me about something and I had no idea what she was talking about. She snapped. She said something to the effect of, “when you are on your iPhone you simply get lost in it. You don’t really hear a word anyone else is saying.” She had apparently had a conversation with me the night before, and while I was responding, I wasn’t really there. I had no recollection of the conversation. At all.
Disconnecting from the people closest to me.
She was right and I knew it. In that moment, it was painfully apparent. Kenya had allowed me to be with the people closest to me and away from the constant connection long enough to realize that, all too often, I turn to my iPhone and disconnect from the people around me, the people closest to me, physically and emotionally. I justified it by allowing myself to believe that engaging with my online world was, in those moments, just as important. It’s not. It’s not more important than really connecting with the people who share the same room with me, the same car with me, the same restaurant table with me.
We’re drunk on social media.
I missed my own product launch (RealSatisfied.com) at Inman Connect. I had no access to the twitter stream while in London. AT&T decided to shut off my digital access. So I surfed the #ICNY hashtag stream on Twitter when I got home. I was delighted to find that Phil and David, my Australian buddies at RealSatisfied.com, had introduced phone stacking to some of my social media drunk friends. They took everyone’s cell phones at dinner and told them that the first person to touch their phone was buying dinner. Imagine that, a dinner at a technology focused conference in New York City where nobody at the table is on their cell phone. Where people are simply focused on having conversations with the people actually at their table.
It would feel like Kenya.
I came home to a full week of activity, including a speaking engagement at CRS Sell-A-Bration. After the conference, I disengaged from Facebook and Twitter. That was last Friday. It’s been a week since I’ve updated my public Twitter or Facebook stream. I don’t think anyone has noticed. It’s noisy in both places, lots of people are vying for attention. And I have no desire to broadcast this post on either one of them. I’ve unchecked the “Publish to Twitter” box on this post. I realize that will mean fewer people will ever know this post is here. I don’t care.
I’m giving myself some distance to gain a bit of perspective. I’ll be back to the public streams of both Facebook and Twitter. I’m just not sure when.