I write sci-fi thrillers about people who become cyborgs by using implanted machinery to enhance their natural abilities. In cyberpunk culture, this is called biohacking. Now to be clear, I don’t personally know anyone with brain implants or subdermal ID chips. Not yet, anyway. But as a culture we’re increasingly dependent on our electronic devices, so in a sense, we’re all cyborgs now—cyborgs that desperately want to retain our humanity even while learning (always learning!) to use the technology given us.
Let me introduce you to my new summer friend, Sallie the Cyborg:
Hoping to catch a few rays, Sallie the Cyborg grabs a cold drink and heads for the neighborhood swimming pool. Because her latest port hasn’t yet been upgraded to waterproof tech, Sallie doesn’t dare go in the water. She spreads out a colorful beach towel, closes her eyes, logs out of the network, and prepares herself for the new sensation of feeling human, for… just… existing. But a few minutes later her neural implant buzzes, and her head feels like it’s full of bees. Angry bees.
“Not again,” she thinks to herself. She checks the feed. Twelve missed messages since logging out. Four of them urgent. Five business-related.
Sallie the Cyborg understands that being online is part of life. After all, if she’s not online she’s not really alive. She sighs, takes a swig of her drink, and logs back into the network to quiet the bees in her head. She’s a cyborg now, doing what cyborgs do best. She’ll experience being human another day. Maybe.
What can we learn about social media from Sallie the Cyborg?
Isn’t going away. Whether you only use texting and email to keep up with friends, or six different social media platforms to promote your business, digital communication is part of staying engaged in life and will remain so unless a massive EMP knocks out the power grid.
Doesn’t define humanity. We can choose to unplug. Unlike Sallie the Cyborg, we are not truly dependent on technology. Our existence isn’t limited to the frequency of updates in our Facebook feeds, or the rate at which we respond to texts.
Doesn’t wait for us. Unplugging comes at a cost. People will call and text (perhaps repeatedly), and wonder where you went. You might miss important notices or business opportunities. Social media is a 24/7/365 event that doesn’t wait for anyone.
Requires a strategy. By setting limits around social media and learning to use it more efficiently, we can unplug every now and then without falling too far behind.
Sallie the Cyborg answers messages with her neural implant. She is logged in. Digitally alive. She glances toward the swimming pool with longing. If only she had a waterproof port… if only she could experience the cold water against her hot skin, if only…
There’s no going back for Sallie the Cyborg, but there’s still hope for us.
(This is part one of a series. Stay tuned…)