The world today is much more different than it was 20 years ago. For that matter, it’s more different than it was yesterday. Social media has become the center around our daily lives, so much…that we removed ourselves from living them.
When I was in high school, sometime in the late 90’s, mobile phones did not exist; at least not in the sense that they do today. Back then, we communicated either through landlines; home phones or public coin operated phones. What that meant was—you couldn’t travel any further with your conversation than the length of the phone cord. Yes, phones actually had chords attached to them, and those chords were attached to outlets on the wall or below ground.
Back in high school, we communicated with one another by passing hand written notes up and down the isles during class. Sometimes the instructor would bogart these personal notes if he or she was lucky enough to catch one of us in the act. Not the most modern form of communication but it worked. It was texting before texting existed.
Today, the world is different. You don’t even need a mobile phone to communicate with someone half-way across the world, just a laptop with a decent wi-fi connection. We can share our entire lives on social media if we chose to. And most of us do; with loved ones, friends, and acquaintances alike. We’re connected more than ever, and I truly want to believe it’s for the better.
But, I cannot help but notice the detrimental effects that social media is inflicting upon younger people. Teenagers born in the last decade or two are having trouble separating technology from life. I see a generation of young people afraid or incapable of engaging in human to human interaction. A generation so dependent on technology that without smartphones or tablets they forget how to speak or be heard.
I see it every day. Sometimes, while out at dinner I notice the couple beside us; glued to their phones, not speaking to one another, avoiding eye contact. Their dinner plate getting colder by the minute. At work it’s even worse. My subordinates can’t stay off their phones even if they wanted to. It’s like an addiction. Even if we’d pay them to stay off their phones, they would surely not.
I too, am guilty of this. Over the last ten years I have noticed the behavioral changes in myself: how I call others less and less, and text more and more. I even catch myself hesitating to dial someone’s number as apposed to sending them a quick text. I’m avoiding interaction all together. It’s becoming a forced habit to interact with the outside world, rather than it being instinctual. But, it’s not just texting, it’s everything else from spending more time outdoors to allowing others into our homes. Our once private lives are becoming mainstreaming entertainment, and companies are looking to make a profit from our likes, and social media habits.
Young people spend more time posting about having fun than actually having fun. I know, I’ve seen it, and I’ve been guilty of doing it myself. I’m out with friends seemingly having a good time, and suddenly I get this urge to snap a pic, and post it so others can see how much fun I’m having. It’s ridiculous when you think about it. There has to be a balance between the two; social media cannot replace our social lives.
I see the good that social media has done: Family and friends can stay connected from anywhere, small businesses can reach new customers, people without a platform now have a place to have their voices heard, and the world is listening, and changing unlike ever before.
Social media does have a place in the new world. We just have to put our narcissism aside; its not about how many “likes” you can get on a post or pic, or about how many followers you can accumulate, it’s about staying connected. Social media has a purpose. And that purpose is to unite the world, and to allow each of us to express ourselves responsibly, and to embrace our differences without prejudice or malice.
If I cannot have the two—give me a social life—or give me a social media death!