The first time I heard The Cure, I was in the backseat of Lisa’s car. Heather was riding shotgun. Close To Me was playing loudly on the stereo. Heather and Lisa were both seniors at my high school and I was just a freshman. The memory I have of hanging out with Heather and Lisa that day, is one I hold dearly. There are several reasons why that memory plays in my mind and makes me smile. One is that I was a freshman hanging out with two cool, pretty and popular seniors. The other is that this occurred before there were cell phones, texts, email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Those things had yet to exist. All we had was the radio, the tape player and our personalities to entertain us, and that was enough.
It’s unfortunate to think that If Heather, Lisa and I had that experience today, it would be completely different. We have so many distractions these days that simply hanging out with people rarely happens anymore. It seems that no one is ever really in the moment, appreciating that moment and making a mental note so that in years to come, they too can have the joy of remembering that moment. It’s likely that they’re too distracted by social media and technology to even recall what they did on any given day.
There have been numerous articles about how social media and technology have completely altered our societal infrastructure. What I find depressing, is that this obsession with social media and technology continues to negatively impact our interactions. It seems like every time I turn around there’s another App, like Snapchat, that becomes the new fad. Are we so afraid of talking on the phone or in person that we need to look for every possible alternative way to communicate? Part of me thinks that people find comfort in the distance social media and technology create. Despite how “connected” we may think we are, we’ve completely lost the ability to connect when it matters most. In person.
I see this as a loss of innocence as we no longer fully appreciate our offline experiences. We’ve become so fixated with living in our online worlds that we neglect to notice special moments when they’re right in front of us. Like children with shiny new toys, we can’t help but be distracted. Was living a much simpler life that boring? Arming ourselves constantly with technology and social media, we carry them around like security blankets; so much so that it seems we’ve forgotten how to converse in person. No longer is our offline life stimulating or entertaining enough. We feel naked and less than, when we’re not interacting online, or our phone is not sitting comfortably in our hands.
I would say that most offline moments today, are still impacted by our online lives. Like unwanted guests at a party, they just show up and end up monopolizing the conversation and diverting people’s attention. It can be annoying when you’re in the middle of telling a friend a story and they tell you to hold because they have to respond to someone’s post. Okay, maybe my story isn’t that interesting, but is my presence no longer sufficient? And why am I being placed in a competition with people who aren’t even here?
When you’re hanging out with someone and looking forward to having a good time, why do you need social media to tag along? Is our fear of missing out forcing us to log on? Whether our desire to be in the know is making us feel as though we have to see what others are doing, or we’re hell bent on sharing our current adventure with others, I see no reason why that should intrude on the time we’re actually spending with someone.
An author by the name of David Maxfield, noticed one day how “getting a like was getting in his way of having a life”. More interested in getting a good picture of him and his niece boogie-boarding, he realized how his desire to “capture the moment” was getting in his way of being able to actually sit back and enjoy the moment. While I can respect people’s desire to document important aspects of their life, I find myself wondering if their desire to “share” those moments with others trumps their ability to embrace those moments themselves. It’s almost as if people are purposely putting themselves on the back burner or in the nose bleed section, distancing themselves further and further from reality just so that they can have a closer relationship with technology.
Not only are social media and technology changing the way in which we live, but they also negatively affect how we’re choosing to live.
Like a giant video game, people build their profiles based on personally selected bits and pieces of information. Are you really telling me there’s no personal bias? Rather than fulfilling themselves offline, there seems to be this narcissistic trend with everyone concocting their social media profiles just to say “look at me” and my amazing life. Have we forgotten how to be humble? Just as an accomplished athlete doesn’t feel the need to go around telling everyone how awesome he is, we should not need to “share” so much of ourselves with our “friends”. If they’re our friends, they should already know how awesome we are and vice versa.
Furthermore, I think that connecting with others on a personal level requires removing the middle man – social media. I see no reason why social media and technology have to usurp our time offline. When you’re with someone who is actually present, the whole experience feels a bit more special. You feel more special because someone is taking the time to actually get to know you, not the online version of you; not to mention you’re giving yourself the opportunity to create a lasting memory.
While social media has its interesting quirks, it also has the capacity to bring people together in a way like never before. It’s fun to be able to share moments with friends and family and connect with others over the same interests. There is, however, a difference between connecting and selling. Creating an online persona that’s not real while missing out on the moments that are, is not beneficial for anyone.
Linda Henkel, a psychology researcher from Fairfield University, took it upon herself to conduct a study where she took several students to the Bellarmine Museum of Art. There she assigned students to works of art that they could photograph and works of art that they could view. What she discovered was that the students were less likely to remember the paintings that they took photos of, as opposed to the ones that they just viewed. Based on her research, one can conclude that a person is more likely to remember an experience when they’re not documenting it.
While we may think that multi-tasking is a positive thing, Linda’s study proves otherwise. We may tell ourselves that we’re just taking another selfie in front of a cool piece of art, but this act frequently becomes a level of self-aggrandizing that takes social media to a whole new level. I think it’s up to us to keep our egos and curiosity in check and use technology wisely.
Just like the guy you date who has to get drunk or stoned to be with you or the friend who won’t accept that you would like to go to dinner with just her, being online or attached to your phone when you’re with me, sends the exact same message; you’re just not that interested. I’m tired of dinners with cell phones on the table and concerts with strategically taken “fun” photos for Facebook. The way I see it is, if you have to be online while you’re with me, how special can our offline relationship really be?