Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

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You used to walk to the streets of New York City and find people with their heads in the clouds- now you walk the streets of New York City and find people with their heads down and eye’s glued to their smartphones. You walk into a restaurant, coffee shop or bar and you see groups of people sitting with each other yet there’s no conversation being had aloud. We’re more concerned with the thoughts and activities of people who are across the world versus the people we’re face-to-face with. Has being so invested in social media in return made us anti-social?

Studies prove that there’s been, “a noise gap that has developed in American Public Life,” and it’s an issue. The bars have grown exponentially louder leaving little capability for in person communication and more encouragement for anti-social phone surfing. The havens that used to be meeting places to have conversations and meetings have been transformed into places to communicate via device. Have we turned meeting places into a place to sit and chat on our laptops?

I’d say a handful of the time people are using their smartphone for actual phone capabilities, majority of the time they’re plugged in and logged in. User’s nowadays are constantly sharing and frivolously checking their friends latest Snapchat MyStory- we’re constantly refreshing because we crave the feeling of being informed. It’s not logical when we pull down to refresh that app within seconds of checking last but we need to feel satiated.

History shows how this need to connect and share is natural and has been around longer than technology has. Tom Standage, author of Writing on the Wall, has demonstrated that the evolution of social media started as soon as we started communicating and sharing with one another. Standage defines social media as, “media we get from other people, exchanged along social connections, creating a distributed discussion or community.”

Standage’s Ted Talk Lessons from Ancient Social Media provides many historical examples of writings that were identified and copied by their scribe. Standage connected the development of penny papers and how the public consumed them to being a relatable process and outlook of social media. Similarly to almost everyone being able to afford the penny papers back in the day, it’s safe to say that almost everyone has the ability to participate in social media- it’s free to use you just need access to a device and the Internet.

Just because it’s there and available, is it healthy to be using so much? Sherry Turkle is an expert on how social media is dividing us and truly damaging our in-person social interactions. Author of Alone Together and Ted Talk guest, Sherry has pinpointed the issues with our technology-obsessed brains. A line that Sherry famously focuses in on is that we’re, “sacrificing conversations for mere connection.” In her Ted Talk Connected, but alone? she hammers in this point on how we’re “connecting” with countless people over multiple platforms at a time yet we aren’t speaking in person anymore.

The Goldilocks Effect is one that Turkle has created and believes is prevalent in our society. She believes that we like to keep our relationships and connections at a distance, “not too close, not too far, just right.” This way we’re gaining many acquaintances at a distance that we choose and we aren’t being forced to have deeper connections.

Technology can be a beautiful thing and an amazing resource we’re blessed to have but there’s a part of me that believes every now and then it’s our duty to sit and wonder if we’re relying on it too much. We should reflect on our behaviors and habits and how they’re affecting our relationships and the people around us. We need to stop controlling every conversation and start having them- in person.

Tess Lowth @tess_lowth

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

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