Social Media Advice: During The Holidays, Is It Tech Or Family Time?

Social media experts Baratunde Thurston, author of the book How to Be Black, and Deanna Zandt, author of Share This: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking, answer questions about how to behave in the digital age. This week's topic: What's the rule for spending more time with technology than family during the holidays?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Finally in Tech, we turn to our social media experts. Baratunde Thurston, former digital director at The Onion and author of the book "How to Be Black;" and Deanna Zandt, she's the author of "Share This: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking."

This week's topic is spending more time with technology than family. Some may prefer "Angry Birds" to aunts and uncles or the game "Words With Friends" to conversations with relatives. But when you're all under one roof for the holidays, what's the rule for spending time on your smartphone?

BARATUNDE THURSTON: It reminds me - I watched the election with a group of friends, and we were on our individual devices watching the election.

DEANNA ZANDT: Yes.

THURSTON: And the host had asked us a question and we didn't hear it. And he asked again and we didn't hear it. He finally says, hey, should I just text to all of you guys?

ZANDT: Yes.

THURSTON: Do you want some Chinese food? And...

ZANDT: Did you all text him and say yeah?

THURSTON: Well, that would have been the comedic way to resolve all that, but we all felt a little sense of shame that we had clearly gathered - like we chose to come together and then not be together.

ZANDT: Well, I think that I go both ways on this because I do get annoyed. And I get more annoyed in the one-on-one. But when you're in a group, there's something that I think is sort of a little bit Zen about being present and connected. We have to end the distinction between offline is real and online is not real connection.

THURSTON: Right.

ZANDT: And I - it just isn't true anymore.

THURSTON: I agree with that. I agree with that. But we are so rarely forced to deal with the families that we dislike.

ZANDT: Right. Right.

THURSTON: And to have an easy escape hatch, which is like...

ZANDT: Which is the real Zen is to be in present in the moment...

THURSTON: Yeah. It's not like you have to deal with this - this is a holiday situation.

ZANDT: Right.

THURSTON: Deal with it.

ZANDT: Yeah.

THURSTON: Like that's part of family, is being annoyed by family, being disappointed by family, being irritated by family.

ZANDT: That's true.

THURSTON: And if you all decide to cheat collectively, it doesn't make it OK, even if you all want to do it.

ZANDT: Right.

THURSTON: You're avoiding the things that you were born into.

ZANDT: I would say then - OK, then I would add the qualifier, like holiday family gathering maybe not OK to zone out and get on the phone.

THURSTON: Because if - you would miss. Like, if you've got the awkward uncle...

ZANDT: Oh.

THURSTON: ...or the racist nana or whatever, like you actually - as much as you complain about him or her, you need that.

ZANDT: Yeah.

THURSTON: And if you all opt out of each other, you're going to miss those awkward moments. Let's do it.

ZANDT: Yeah, you can't just opt out (unintelligible).

THURSTON: Once a year, put it down.

ZANDT: Right.

THURSTON: Stare awkwardly into your brother's face.

SIEGEL: That's Baratunde Thurston and Deanna Zandt. Have a question for our experts? Email it to alltech@npr.org.

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SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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