I often feel as though the birth of the group chat brought about the death of the group activity. It seems almost impossible to organise a time and place where you can draw everyone in a group chat out “IRL”. But how is it that this amazing piece of technology that enables us to communicate with people more instantly and efficiently than ever before, actually seems to be preventing us from connecting in the real world? And saying that, where is the line between the real world and the cyber world these days anyway? I know, #firstworldproblems, right?
This group chat paradigm shift may be a symptom of a greater problem supposedly facing our generation. Is our obsession with social media actually making us less able to connect to the real world and the real people that inhabit it?
There are a plethora of arguments for and against this argument, so much so that, much like most things these days, we are bombarded with so much information that it makes it almost impossible to know where you stand on anything.
Advocates of social media will argue that it provides us an invaluable link to new people and information that has allowed us to form communities, open people’s eyes and minds to new ideas and give a platform to those whose voices previously were seldom heard. As a social media junkie myself, I am inclined to fall in line with this way of thinking.
However, arguments to the contrary are not unfounded and should not be dismissed. We are a generation that feels better equipped to have honest, meaningful conversations with complete strangers online than with our closest friends and family. Even if you do not see this as a negative thing, I have to question the authenticity of these interactions. In a cyber world where we can auto correct and filter ourselves so easily before hitting send or publish, how genuine can our online selves really be?
Two years ago, Prince Ea put out a thought provoking video about what he calls “anti social media”. He questions how connected we can really be when “our chats are reduced to snaps, the news is in 140 characters, and videos are 6 seconds”? The video is well worth the watch and can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ
This leads me to believe that the answer may lie in the difference in definition between communication and connection. Perhaps our definition of connection has changed? Maybe as the social human beings that we are, we have evolved? Perhaps our social needs can be fulfilled by likes? Personally, I find that idea far too sad to let it be true.
For me, social media is utterly dynamic in terms of communication, but cannot replace human connections. If you find that you are the friend who never looks up from their phone, or are unable to live in the moment because you are too focused on posting it, then perhaps you should consider a social media detox. When I switch my phone off for a day, instead of the expected anxiety and itch to get back online I expected, I felt a sense of liberation and relief, and you might too.