I'm one of the guest bloggers at the Rabbinic Convention going on right now in Long Beach, CA. Here's a posting which will go up there, just as soon as I can figure out how to get into the system!
I've been thinking a lot about technology and presence.
I'm a techie - I have a degree in Computer Science, and I love my various iGadgets. I'm a big Facebook user, a not-so-enthusiastic Tweeter, and so on. And, like many of my colleagues, I've taken to Tweeting and/or Facebooking during sessions - posting great quotes or insights from the speakers, or sometimes a thought or reaction that I have. It can be a lot of fun - others who aren't here can comment and participate - at least a little. And, sometimes it turns into a virtual side-conversation among several of us who are doing this.
But, it's happened - fairly often, actually - that I've missed something in the presentation, because I was typing about the last comment. Or, because I was readiing someone else's comment. Or - no surprise here - because I got sucked into Facebook/Twitter/Whatever and stopped paying attention for a minute or 5.
It's not news, but it really is impossible to multi-task. We do one thing, and then switch to another. We can, sometimes, do that very rapidly, but we can't actually do to things at once. So, when we're Social Media-ing, we aren't giving our full attention to the presenter, or the presentation. We aren't fully present in that moment, and we're very likely to miss something. Maybe something valuable.
At times, I love being part of this Virtual Convention. But, I'm starting to think it's not really worth it. I'm thinking about not doing any of this for the rest of the convention. Or, at least, a whole lot less. I don't think anyone will really mind...
By the way, there are, of course, major conversations going on about the value of using this kind of Social Networking as part of the tefillah experience. As someone who thinks that Mindfulness is an essential component of prayer, you can guess what my gut reaction is to that! But, that's for another post...