The internet and the age of avoidance (My TEDx talk)

Last month I fulfilled a long-time goal of mine and gave a TEDx talk. I’ve been a fan of TED talks for years. Mark and I frequently watch them and I’ve gleaned so many insights on various topics over the years. I love the format and how it allows for the sharing of new ideas and perspectives, so I was honored when Chapman University asked to me speak at their event. I was also overwhelmed and intimated.

Kristen Howerton at TEDx Chapman speaking on how our generation is using the internet to avoid feelings

My first hurdle was deciding on the topic. I had so many different ideas bouncing around in my head (race, faith, parenting, etc.), but ultimately decided I wanted to talk about something that was relevant to a wide range of people – something that was both timely and personal. I decided I wanted to tackle the subject of social media and how it has become such a huge distraction in our lives. I wanted to address the way our generation is “logging on” in an effort to distract ourselves from stress, pain, and negative feelings, to the point where we are losing sight of what is really important to us. I had experienced this phenomenon in a unique way during the earthquake in Haiti. . . a diversion that seemed benign almost cost me my trip home. I decided to open with this story to give a personal example of how dangerous it can be when we make our “distractions” our main focus.

What’s curious is that during the process of preparing for the TEDx talk, which was truly one of the more stressful experiences of my life . . . I almost became my own case study. I was really overwhelmed by the prospect of this talk. I was in the middle of teaching a rather intensive class at the university. I was still doing the day-to-day routine of parenting four kids. I was nervous about writing a good talk and delivering it without notes. And more than anything . . . I was feeling insecure. Like I wasn’t up for the task. Every time I sat down to work on my talk, I was overwhelmed with these Big Feelings. And to deal with them . . . I checked out. I wasted more time on social media in the weeks leading up to my TEDx talk than I every have in my life. I was fully aware of the irony that I was becoming the prime offender of the bad habits I was getting ready to talk about. But in some way, I felt it solidified for me the importance of talking about it. In talking with others, I know I’m not alone in this tendency.

Despite my month of self-destruction, I did manage to finish writing and memorizing my talk (with some serious help from Jason Boyett – thanks Jason!). I’m not going to lie . . . I’m glad it’s over. The lead-up was not fun, but the actual event was a great experience. Here’s a video of my talk:

Does this resonate with you? Do you find yourself tempted to “log on and zone out” when under stress? Do you agree that the internet has become our generation’s diversion? How do you manage your online time?


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