It’s no secret that social media has become our medium for conversation. It is very rare that someone picks up the phone to call you today, and if they do, the first thing they say is most likely “hey, did you get my text?” With all of this non-verbal communication it’s easy to become reliant on words. Words that hold so much meaning behind them, because they have to be written in a way that evoke the tone of the author. This kind of thing used to only be worried about by great writers like Shakespeare, and Robert Frost. Today, the ditzy girl three doors down who doesn’t know geography from geometry is contemplating her writing on a day to day basis. It’s just weird.
I’m a part of this technologically savvy generation. I know the in’s & out’s of Twitter, and the best time of day to post an Instagram photo. Don’t get me wrong, I think these kind of innovative advances in social media can be good for our generation. They allow us to connect to people we have never met before, across the state or globe, they help us to learn things that we’d never know about in our small corners of the world, and they do make life a whole lot easier. But easy isn’t always better. Easy is actually really boring sometimes. The easy way has never been dubbed the best way, and I don’t think it ever will be.
I overheard someone saying the other day that they chose to attend our university because they posted their top two choices (ours being one of them) in a status on Facebook to gain outsider opinions, and our school “won.” I was in shock. I never thought that someone would make a life decision based off of the ideas of people they haven’t seen since middle school, or their mom’s, cousin’s, aunt’s, cat sitter. Then I started to think about everything we do on social media; it’s basically a judging contest for strangers. Sure, people you’re really close to can connect to you as well – and that’s always fun – but how many people do you know who only have their seven closest family and friends on their Facebook page? (HINT: if you know someone like that, you’re lying).
The more I thought about this, the more I realized just how out of hand social media is getting and it scared me. A lot. It scared me for our future generations who are going to text their first word instead of speak it, or pick out their friends based on iPad polls in the elementary school cafeteria.
And don’t even get me started on what “dating” has become. It used to be that you met someone… You actually met them (didn’t just “poke” them on Facebook or favorite one of their tweets). You went out. To places. Places where other people were around physically and not just on message forums. You were able to see the kind of food your date liked, not just what they wrote in their “about me” section, but more importantly you were able to see how they ate it, and if they chomped away like a cow on grass, you could leave that date skid free and never have to hear from them again – unless they called your house phone and left a message – and that didn’t even guarantee you’d call back.
There’s something really special and simple about having to sit on a phone, that’s attached to a wall, and not move or do anything else except talk to the person on the other line. For some reason that’s now become as ancient as the civil war, and it’s comedic to think about a time where doing one thing at a time was the norm.
Let’s get back to Facebook and Twitter for a second though. Not only are we posting our lives for people to see and judge, but it’s almost involuntary. We wonder how someone we’ve only talked to twice in our lives can message us and ask how our dog is feeling? Maybe it’s because we’d posted a picture of Rusty with a tiny dog cast on last week and captioned it “my dog Rusty broke his leg playing fetch in Central Park.” Not only does that stranger now know that you have a dog, named Rusty, and that he broke his leg, but that person also knows you frequent Central Park. What if that person is a serial killer? We don’t know…. We just accepted their friend request to be nice.
Maybe I’m being a bit over dramatic with the serial killer analogy, but hey you never know! And that’s just it – you should know. You should know who knows about your life, and you should know them well. Today, with social media we give people permission to categorize their feelings under one word (“like”) or one click (“favorite”). People like things that are terrible. They like statuses about people losing their jobs, or getting in a car accident… Does it really seem fitting to “like” that? All of a sudden the ten million emotions that human beings are capable of feeling are summed up under one word, and a solitary action.
Let’s take a minute to think about how many feuds social media causes too. Not just tiny feuds either, like between a husband and wife when the husband posts a Woman Crush Wednesday of Jennifer Lawrence, but between professional NFL athletes, or even Presidential candidates. How pathetic is that? These things would never have been made public before, which is probably why there were less divorces, stronger football morale, and less inflation in correspondence with lower tax breaks. A husband would think about his crush on Jennifer Lawrence, but unless his wife was psychic, there would never be an argument. A football player would lose a game with sadness and exhaustion, but not have to read about how terrible they performed the entire bus ride back to the hotel, and a president would spend more time behind the desk of the Oval Office signing bills than typing witty tweets in hopes of gaining a “fan base”.
That brings me to another issue. How vain and shallow is it to judge the way we are by the favorites, likes, and comments of people we’d never recognize in real life? You post a selfie and get 12 likes – you feel like that’s pretty solid right? Then you come back to your phone and have a comment too – that’s like the cherry on top of this extremely superficial sundae. Now what happens if you post that same picture and three hours later you don’t have a single like? You probably assume your phone malfunctioned or something’s wrong with your Instagram app – you turn off your phone and reopen the app and still… Nothing. It’s sad but true to say you’d probably delete that post. We really on being connected to people at all times, assuming that our “news” to share should be seen and responded to instantaneously. This need for instant gratification is the reason our generation does so poorly in the workplace, or other structured environments. We have such a need for reinforcement and appreciation. Things that just don’t happen that often in the real world.
All I’m trying to say is we’re caught between a rock & a hard place, America. We can’t live with technology and we can’t live without it. We love to hate it and hate to love it. But in the end, there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Even though we can’t stop it for the world though, we can change it in our own lives. We can pick up the phone every once in a while and talk (instead of type) to someone. We can physically get up off of our butts, walk across the street, knock on our neighbors door and say we like their new car… instead of liking a picture of it on Facebook with your front yard in the background. You don’t have to boycott social media because let’s face it, it’s close to impossible to do that. It’s a guarantee that we’ll continue to have innovative changes in this world; advances in social media being in the forefront of those changes. Nothing will ever be the same until we decide it’s vintage to go back to basics. But we can aid against these changes a bit. We can stop them from allowing strangers to help you with major life decisions, and from thinking you have to find a man on your laptop while eating rocky road in your pink fuzzy slippers. If you actually meet someone and talk to them and share your life through stories instead of pictures – they’ll find out about your pink fuzzy slippers, and they may actually like them (not just by clicking a button).