By Carly Omenhiser
If you're like me, you can't go very long without checking your phone. I take it with me wherever I go, and if somehow, some way I forget it, I can feel the anxiety bubble from within. That feeling when your connection to the rest of the world is not in the palm of your hand. A concept, not 10 years ago, we didn’t even know existed.
There's email and texting and news updates and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram and so many other things to check for updates.
Social media has taken hold of modern communication. We love to hear that little message beep.
Messages are now short and concise. The communication is efficient and less time consuming. While these are both benefits in an age where time is money, it reduces a great deal the quality of the communication.
In fact, actual words are merely an option now. And it’s spreading to our spoken vocabulary. I’ve heard grown people use the phrases “omg,” “lol,” and “idk” in conversation.
People use these phrases in text messages to lessen the length and further the speed of expressing our thoughts. In person, they should never be uttered. I get nervous when I hear people say them, because I don’t want to offend them with the mixed look of horror, disgust and astonishment that is undoubtedly spread across my face.
Don't get me wrong, I’m not a curmudgeon. Having a platform to be able to share what's going on in your life is a great thing. It's a fantastic way to keep in touch with friends and share the great things, or bad things, happening in your life. It makes keeping in touch with friends easier than ever before, making us far more social people and improving the relationships we have.
Social media does have a beneficial place in this world. But for some, it’s an obsession that takes their actual social life and transforms it into a digital cesspool of fake relationships.
Sharing makes us feel "social" in what is becoming a far less social world because of it.
For people who want to connect and be more social, you couldn't be farther from social by gluing yourself to your tiny devices.
I watched two people sitting together at a restaurant that hardly spoke to each other. Instead, they stared at the glowing screen of their phones and occasionally looked up, giggled and shared something they encountered in their digital journey.
We can't seem to drag ourselves away from our social media to be present in our actual, real life social situations.
They would rather look as their mobile devices than sit across from one another and talk about their day. Why?
There are few things ruder than when you're speaking with someone and rather than looking at you they are browsing their phone. I'm guilty of it myself. Why do we do this?
In waiting rooms or airports, rather than meeting new people and engaging in conversation, we all sit in silence, flicking through pages.
We'd rather fumble through our news feeds than actually socialize with someone we don't know, and sometimes especially with the people we do know.
While social media has made socializing with people who are not in our direct lives easier, it hasn't made us more social people. In a way, it's closed us off more than ever.
Are we more interested in what our “friends” are up to than our own lives occurring in the present? Many times, I think the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.”
I don't think it's because we don't want to have a conversation, I think it's because of an internal desire to constantly be "in the know."
We're innately nosey people. We want to know what's going on, and we suddenly have access to all our friend's business. And they willingly share it! And there is always something new to read.
Not only do we want to be in the know about our friend's business, but we want to be in the know about what's going on in the news, what the new and best products are, what the best new music is and where is the best new restaurant or any tidbit of information that makes us more knowledgeable than the person next to us.
Social media feeds that desire.
While being in a race for knowledge isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is if we're racing for the right knowledge.
Social media is a great tool if not abused. For some, it provides an opportunity to still feel social while operating in a world in which you prefer not to be social.
So in the New Year, let's all try to put the phone down, meet somebody new and be present in our own lives.
To hear Derek Workman's counter argument on how social media is making us more social check out "Note-Based Culture"
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Carly Omenhiser is a journalist and Deputy Editor of The Kalahari Review