Connecting…Values and Social Media Literacy

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Drue Watkins
Copy Editor

Technology is a wonderful thing that makes life more accessible, more pleasurable and more intuitive.

It has led to increases in medicine, transportation, entertainment, mass production, near-instant communication and the digitization of the world with the creation of the internet.

Technology is supposed to make us more connected and more interactive; to learn more about one another and to be better.

However, is it possible for technology to deteriorate our social capabilities and our physical presences in the real world? Does constant reliance on virtual means of communication make people feel more isolated?

One of the biggest pros of technology is the advent of the internet—it has succeeded in connecting people from around the world, exposing more and more individuals to different cultures and ideas.

In a way, that is most certainly a social activity: you’re able to interact with and meet new and interesting people at any moment you feel like. How could that be considered isolating or restrictive?

As impressive and great as all of that is, it’s entirely possible that it’s just a distraction from what’s going on around you; a distraction that can subtly make you feel more and more distanced by limiting your exposure to the concrete world you live in and creating a bigger reliance on digital communication.

With the invention of the internet, coupled with our reliance on smartphones and the ability to talk to someone no matter where they are, some of that personal, real socialization is quickly losing significance in favor of immediate access.

Is it still around? Most certainly, and it’s nice to see it when it does occur.

But there’s no denying that modern technology has hit our social spectrum in obtrusive ways—particularly with how we interact with one another.

Should we talk or should we text? That seems like a strange question to ask ourselves, and it often leads to miscommunication.

How frequently do you find yourself surrounded by people idly staring at their cellphones, mindlessly scrolling, instead of having face-to-face conversations? I’m often guilty of this—sometimes it’s a way to make myself feel more comfortable, or to just avoid speaking to someone entirely; it’s a broken-in reflex at this point.

If one person begins staring at their phone, then everyone else will, too. Whether they do it to avoid feeling self-conscious or to avoid awkwardness, it is also a way to avoid tangible relationships and interactions.

As someone who used to be self-destructively shy, I thought cellphones were a life-saver—anxiety levels dropped, coolness prevailed and I could really feel like myself.

It didn’t take me long, however, to see how poorly it had been affecting my life.

I didn’t want to talk to people, I wanted to text them; I didn’t want to go out and meet them, I wanted to stay home and communicate with them through a screen. It reduced my capabilities as a person.

Even though I was engaging with these people, it didn’t really feel like it; it felt weightless and emotionless. In a way, despite all the technological access to everybody in the world, it made me feel more alone than a part of something bigger.

Social media, too, has had a profound impact on how we dictate the meaning of our lives.

Is constant documentation of every little thing that occurs in our life living in the moment, or is it holding that moment back from being truly special?

The constant need to validate every aspect of our lives interrupts our own interpretation of said life—this in turn contributes to our fear of missing out.

How often do you scroll through your Twitter or Facebook feed in fear of missing something that everyone else has already seen?

It feeds into this frenzied idea of wanting to know everything all at once. Reliance on sharing restricts personal moments of reflection.

The idea that we have become so dependent on wanting to know exactly what is going on in other people’s lives, too, is both sad and detrimental—especially with wanting to know how their lives correspond with and affect our own.

We should be prioritizing our own lives, our own interactions and our own relationships with people.

These unfair, unconscious comparisons with others through technology has negatively impacted how we view ourselves and what we desire from ourselves.

And relationships, too, have taken a hit. Where people should be taking long walks on intimate dates and engaging in faceto-face conversation—where they could see immediate reactions—we instead see people message a prospective partner’s profile and sit, tense and anxious, on the edge of their seat, wondering why it is taking so long for a response.

There’s a loss of excitement and of personal gratification.

Inconsistent messages and misinterpretations rob people of that sense of intimate immediacy; the feeling of engaging in such a human activity withers away.

Is technology bad? No.

Is texting, or Facebook, or anything else like that bad? No.

In fact, I think all of it can be quite good.

However, we should be careful not to let it negatively impact our social lives—a carefulness that should translate to not letting technology govern how it is that we choose to live and interact.

Technology should never make us feel insecure, unimportant or alone.

Emotions are what makes people, people. They drive us, pushes us forward and encourages us to break out of our comfort zone to find something worth living for.

Don’t let a screen or a virtual reality dictate how you choose to live your life.

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