Are Connected Baby Boomers Antisocial?

Dave Bernard

Each day millions of people of all ages around the world use the Internet to communicate. Friends and family can instantly share thoughts, pictures, and even videos of events happening in their lives. Social media has enhanced creativity through sites such as YouTube and encouraged us to share our lives in as intimate detail as we choose on Facebook.

[See Retirees Fastest-Growing Users of Social Networks.]

But is all of this sharing, tweeting, four-squaring, and texting adding to our quality of life? Virtual contact is hardly as fulfilling and impactful as communicating face to face with a fellow human being. Baby boomers who are online all the time may be missing something more important.

Antisocial social media. Take a moment and think back to a time when you were at a restaurant and no iPhones were being used by patrons. Any luck? You probably witnessed couples sitting across the table from one another having a nice dinner. But instead of conversing, each had their own mobile device in hand and was lost in communicating with someone not sitting at their table. Few people can resist snatching up their iPhone each time a new e-mail arrives. Is it really that important? The problem is, by putting the remote person at the forefront of your attention, you neglect the flesh and blood person sitting beside you. And the message is apparent that your virtual friend is more important than your real friend.

[See How to Tweet Your Way to Retirement Goals.]

Young people these days have some of the fastest thumbs you have ever seen, seasoned by years of frenetic texting and Internet surfing. Their wit and humor comes across in links they share and clips they reference. But have you tried to have a real conversation with them without access to a mobile device? How effectively do they engage without the help of a video clip or other special effects?

Effective communication skills are learned over time and perfected through practice. Just like texting, the more you do it, the better you get. Conversely, if you do not practice you are less adept. There is real value in social media to the extent you reach out to people that you would not otherwise be in contact with. My daughter and me text each other almost every day. But a little balance between virtual and real life is not a bad thing. It's better to work on both sets of skills.

I enjoy the cute cat videos and the laughing baby clips just as much as anyone else. But losing Internet connectivity should not be more important than losing our connection with real people around us.

[See The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012.]

Retirees have lived interesting lives filled with entertaining moments and humorous experiences. Sharing anecdotes keeps these memories alive. Listening to a story in person with each expression and body movement vividly painting the picture is not something that a text or video can easily reproduce. Maybe it is time for baby boomers to log off the Internet and log on to life.

Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a satisfying retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only the Beginning.