‘Social’ media isn’t so social anymore

imgresBy Brittney Smith

Special Contributor

Social media and technology are corrupting society as we know it. You may think this is an overly dramatic statement, but have you ever walked into a restaurant, sat without your device and watched how many people are making real human interaction?

One night this week I watched an average family of four have an entire meal without once holding a full conversation. They had their noses pressed to their smartphones and tablets for the span of the meal. Each one of them was using their device to talk to someone else, whether through text message or some kind of social media.

I thought to myself that entire meal, “Their parents should know better, why have they not taken those things away from their kids yet?” Then I realized the parents were users — victims — as well. It was as if the adults at the table didn’t even have the desire to interact. The sad thing is I don’t know who we should blame for this lack of social desire. Or maybe it’s just confusion.

Is that what we’ve led people to believe, that social media is in fact being “social”? If anything, it’s the exact opposite. Being able to hide behind a screen and not actually having to interact with an actual human being in front of your face is not what I would call “social.”

Take the friends you have on Facebook in comparison to the friends you have in real life. I personally have 740 Facebook “friends.” Do I know more than half of them? No (which is one reason I will confess to being a victim of the social media and technology frenzy, too). In reality I have only a handful of friends that I even care to talk to, something I feel like most people would admit to as well.

We know that this is the truth about social networking, so why do we exploit ourselves to it day in and day out, letting it destroy our actual social skills? What has us so addicted?

Information overload and something that has so sweetly been labeled as FOMO — fear of missing out. If you observe a Twitter addict at play, you’ll notice that even though their timeline has been fully loaded they continue to pull the screen down (what we’ll all have to thank for the arthritis in our thumbs years from now) waiting for something new to pop up. They don’t want to, even for a second, miss what one of their friends or favorite celebrities has said.

It isn’t like some crucial comment can fit into 140 characters anyway. And isn’t that another sad realization? Some of us, me included, are too caught up to read past the 140 characters Twitter offers for one tweet. But there’s another social media outlet for us as well — Instagram.

Instagram lets you use your brain even less than the other outlets. With a scroll of your thumb and a simple double tap, you can gain the satisfaction of that little opaque heart on the screen that says, “You like this.” It’s even involving itself into our weekly routine. You wouldn’t be a part of this generation if you haven’t ever heard of “Selfie Sunday, Man Crush Monday, Transformation Tuesday, Woman Crush Wednesday, Throw Back Thursday, or Flash Back/Flex Friday.” However, we all participate, doing it all for the “likes.”

Maybe that’s the underlying attraction here, gaining likes or followers. Every social media outlet allows people to “like” this and “share” that. Do we all just want some kind of approval or acceptance from our peers? Why else are we posting statuses every day, tweeting 24/7 and participating in a picture a day?

This is nothing new in society. Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to have a lot of friends. So maybe it isn’t that people have changed. Maybe it’s just the way they go about these attention-seeking habits that, in the end, leave them worse off than when they began their relationship with “social” media.

Brittney Smith is a student journalist at Tarleton State University.    

2 Responses to ‘Social’ media isn’t so social anymore

  1. Karen Richardson Reply

    December 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you Ms. Smith, Excellent point and I hope this challenges us all to be more present to those around us in flesh, rather than strangers via phone.

    • Kathryn Reply

      December 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Karen. I agree. Social media does let us keep in touch with far-flung friends and loved ones, but too often face-to-face human interaction is getting displaced by text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The key is to use social media in addition to human interaction, not in place of it. I find teaching journalism to be a challenge these days because many of my students are afraid or don’t know how to interview someone by phone or in person. They’d rather do it all online because that’s what they’re comfortable with — and we have to keep pushing them to make human connections.

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