Is Social Media Making us Less Social?
At this very moment, millions of people are logging into their social-media accounts and exploring the latest posts. From Facebook to Twitter, socializing online has become a phenomenon that’s mainly rivaled with the invention of the telephone. More people than ever can exchange information across the globe in seconds. With a cursory glance, you might think that social media is actually bringing people closer together. However, a detailed look tells you that more people are engaging with their phones compared to real, human conversations. With teens and young adults checking their profile around 10 times a day, it’s time to look at the reasons why social media is such a draw for the human mind.
Close Companions Being Taken For Granted
When you log onto your social-media account, your friends are neatly lined up along the margin. With one click, you can talk to them if and when necessary. However, most people rarely connect with their own friends or followers, they simply look through their feeds to see how many “likes” or comments they’ve received on a recent post or image. Ten years ago, you may have called your grandmother once a week because you wanted to confirm that she was doing well. If grandma’s online status is constantly changing today, you instantly know that she’s well. As a result, you don’t contact her at all. A simple phone call or visit to her home was the social way of handling loved ones in the past.
The Waiting-Room Scenario
A nearly perfect way to prove that social media makes people less social is observing a doctor’s waiting room. Because people had no choice but to socialize, waiting rooms used to be filled with polite conversation as children played nearby. Look at a waiting room today, and you’ll see most of the people staring at their phone sceens. The kids may also be on their devices. A friendly waiting room has now become a quiet place where people catch up on the latest scrolling news. The only real socializing that does occur in the doctor’s office is between the patients and staff members in the back rooms.
Taking the Life Out of the Party
You might think that a party atmosphere would pull people away from their phones, but this scenario isn’t the case. People will usually spend more time on their phones during a party because they’re actively posting items. They’ll look for the best selfie angle, post it and check back on the platform for responses. People aren’t thrilled to be dancing or relaxing at the party because they’re more concerned about being seen at this location through the social-media lens. For most of the party, they’ll simply be posting pictures and reading comments as their form of socializing.
An “Out” For Social Awkwardness
In a typical group of individuals, you’ll have a mixture of different personalities. Outgoing, shy and awkward people may be at the same gathering together. Socially awkward people used to stand back, observe the action and wait to speak to a friendly face. However, these people are now using the smartphone or tablet as a way to escape their awkwardness. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, they go online and check their social media. They aren’t truly socializing because they’re usually reading feeds that don’t require any real discourse, leading to them perhaps never conquering their fears.
Living in a Virtual World
Everyone wants to change something about themselves, from a personality quirk to hair color. Socializing in person can often accentuate these personal misconceptions. When people use social media, in contrast, they can portray themselves in an entirely different light. Add filters and special effects to photos so that you look prettier or more handsome than without the alterations. Being social in real life means that people must pay attention to those so-called faults they’d otherwise change. Social media allows them to change, but there’s no real socializing that goes along with viewing a photo.
Gathering Followers Rather Than Friends
Decades ago, children and teenagers had a group of friends that may have equated to about five or 10 people. This was the peer group that influenced kids until adulthood. The peer group was treated as a sacred friendship that no one could break up. In contrast, today’s youth has followers or friends online. These friends don’t offer the same socializing opportunities, however. People don’t add friends to their social-media platform because of deep conversations between these individuals. In fact, people are collecting followers in order to make them look good by the numbers. Using friends to rank one’s self is a million miles away from socializing.
Personality is Checked at the Computer Monitor
When you truly socialize with a person, you’re speaking to the individual on a deeply personal level. You may know about the person’s strengths, weaknesses and mistakes made in the world. All of these details create a bond between people. When social media is used exclusively, real people are reduced to being characters in a photo or video. Personality traits can be altered or hidden as necessary. Socializing with a character online isn’t the same as connecting on a personal level.
Taking the Risk Out of Relationships
People find that social media protects them from life’s emotional moments. Asking a person on a date when you’re face-to-face is incredibly difficult. If the person says no, you need to recover your composure without showing how disappointed you really are. Speaking to a person over social media allows you to hide behind the platform. Rejection can be thought of as a plot line in a story instead of a real-life scenario that broke your heart. Fewer social moments mean you can protect yourself from emotional harm, but with a high cost of no personal epiphanies.
Social media use is bound to grow even more as new platforms come to light. It will be up to young adults to see the distraction in their lives, and what they need to do in response. The simple act of putting down the phone and speaking to a neighbor may be the first start towards socializing again. Time will only tell how the human spirit reacts to technology today and tomorrow.