We are all aware of the positive advancements the Internet and mobile technology have created. We’ve also seen how social media has changed the world and brought us into a dynamic new global era. However in the frenzied march to the information era, have we taken the time to reflect on the impact of technology on our culture and lifestyle?
Lonely life in the fast lane
Walking to class, taking the bus, you have seen it, or maybe it is even you, oblivious, with your eyes glued to a three-inch screen, earbuds shoved into your skull, the world silent around you. The smartphone is your friend, your connection to humanity. Forget the person sitting next to you, what could you possibly learn from them? You have statuses to check, comments to make, posts to reblog and cat videos to watch. Welcome to total media saturation. Like a page right out of Fahrenheit 451 we are becoming lonely zombies addicted to a constant feed of new information. Perhaps one of the most socially destructive habits is the media binge. Binging on hours, full seasons even of TV shows on Netflix or Hulu. Without proper time management, tech and media can pull us into the depth of isolation and even depression.
The abuse of convenience
When we do finally decide to break out of our media hibernation caves and actually interact with others, our selfish habits persist. There was a time when people made plans in advance, days, weeks, even months ahead of time and stuck to those plans. You had to decide if you would show up or not and give your host or group fair warning. Now that information is so instant, planning is an almost extinct activity. Disseminating information on a last minute basis has become socially acceptable. Cancelling, or flaking on someone does not have the same feeling of consequence when it can be done over a text message at the last moment. We do not even know where we are going half the time until we are already on our way, fire up Google Maps and punch in our destination address that someone just texted us when we said we’re leaving. Maybe this does not seem like a big deal, and sending an invitation in the mail or looking at a map is too old-fashioned, but it is 2013 and our phones can handle everything.
The problem comes in our lack of respect for others.When people cancel plans last minute it is extremely frustrating, but you can not really show how upset you are because it is the norm. We routinely do this to each other and end up wasting time and opportunities. You were going to go out with your friends, but the person that was going to drive cancels last second and you’re left in a mad dash scramble to find another ride. All your plans go to shit for the night and now you just want to crawl into a deep dark hole and cuddle up with Netflix.
Keeping the lines of communication open in a relationship is hard enough. Having to communicate through eight different mediums makes it exhausting. We no longer just catch up with our significant others with a face-to-face or with a phone call before bed.
As we shy away from these sustained conversations and move into a fragmented communication style, text messages can be especially troubling. One of the worst things about texting your significant other is that there is no sense of separation when your significant other can get a hold of you at any moment with a text. Because you can not say much with your thumbs under 160 characters it’s hard to properly give context or express your tone. Response time can be a big issue too. Why aren’t they texting me back yet? Are they with someone else right now? Did I say something to upset them? Insecurity, doubt and questioning can grow like a vicious weed when chances are they’re taking a nap or left their phone in another room.
I know I’ve been guilty of this over-analyzation, and the more mediums thrown into the mix the more analysis is possible. Facebook is a prime example. It allows you to communicate in extreme degrees of subtlety. Of course you can be direct with a message or comment, but even just a “like” can be a pandora’s box of possible meaning. You like your lover’s photo, they feel happy. You get jealous seeing your lover in a photo with someone else? Time to be a passive aggressive bitch and like it. Feeling insecure, stalk them and cling to their every post, every song lyric they quote, send them a Facebook message if they do not text you back. Where does it all end?
Survival of the fittest
The final question we must ask is one of evolutionary consequence. Can we adapt to these changing forms of communication fast enough? What if some of us can adapt quicker? What about those in our society and communities who can’t adapt at all? Social skills can be a serious problem for some so what happens when we magnify that? If you can’t keep up, all these new channels do is give you 10 different ways to feel rejected, neglected and insufficient. They expand our ability to self-sabotage and to abuse our relationships. If we do not pause to unplug and consider the ramifications of technology abuse it will only get worse. What that looks like I am not sure, but when someone cannot even put down their phone long enough to take a piss, our society is already in the toilet.
– Ben Andrews is social media addict who couldn’t wait til this went online to tweet it.