Social Media: A Worthy Replacement for a Hug?

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ADOTAS — Recently, this Upworthy video made its way around the web, causing smartphone users to feel a cringe-worthy shame.



The satire rather extremely lampoons the damaging effects of technology when not managed properly. While the clip is about smartphones, we would argue that most smartphone users have at least one social media app they check throughout the day. So as much as it’s about smartphones, it’s equally about what’s happening and how people spend time on smartphones.

It’s likely, then, that your social media habits aren’t that far off from the video clip. Well, we aren’t experts on how you spend your time on your smartphone, but keep in mind that while you’re off snooping on your ex’s ex-ex-girlfriend, your friends, family, and colleagues may be missing you. Here are a few real life things we you might be missing out on.


Hugs

You’ve hit the Facebook friend cap, a little more than 5,000. Great. You’ve got more friends than anyone you know. But, honestly, do you even remember Timothy White? George Sander? Well, you met George three years ago at that Irish pub down the block from your one-bedroom, no-kitchen loft. You’d had more than a few drinks and spent a grand total of five minutes blowing your job way out of proportion and planning a date to grab drinks again (which we all know will never happen).  Nothing else came of it, but somehow you became Facebook friends. Occasionally, he pokes you (through Facebook, now – behave) and that’s it. George represents 99.9 percent of yourfriends. If he hugged you in real life (yes, a physical contact kind of hug), you’d flip-out. You probably wouldn’t even recognize him. So, instead of hawking over Facebook likes, comments, and friends, go get yourself a hug from one of your real life friends. No, really, it’s okay – you both would probably really enjoy it. Next time, forget about drinks with George and just hug your best friend.

Stories

Twitter helped catalyze the Molodova, Tunisian, and Egyptian revolutions by enabling activists to quickly organize wide-scale protests. Even on our own shores, politicians (Barack Obama is the fifth most-followed Twitter user) and celebrities (Lady Gaga is, unfortunately, the most-followed Twitter user) frequently tweet on everything from winning office to billboard ratings. In 140 characters or less, we gobble up these headlines of information before they even hit the news feeds. The problem is they’re so terse we never really get the whole story – the event leading up to the tweet, the impetus. Though not always the case, it’s undeniable that Twitter, Facebook, and social media as a whole has changed the way people read and communicate (you’ve surely heard the hashtag said in conversation, haven’t you?). Change isn’t always bad, except when you consider literacy and book sales rates are steadily declining. Books, reading, and writing are mediums to experience the past, reinterpret the present, and dream the future. Through stories, you have access to the inner-workings of a person you have never and likely will never meet. And it’s after you’ve personalized the protagonist’s struggle, shared his laughter, watched him fall just to rise above at the last moment, that you’ve finally experienced this traumatic catharsis that will help you to better connect with people. And in the aftermath, there will be plenty of tweets to read and contribute to.

Memories

Forget scrapbooks — you’ve got enough photo albums to fill an external hard drive, and all of them have made it onto Instagram, which enables you to place whatever filter you’d like on each of your photos. Awesome. But think about this – when you snap a photo and place a filter on it to accent certain features, you aren’t actually seeing the scene in the photo. You’re seeing a processed rendition of that scene. And, there’s no doubt about how the ubiquity of snapping photos has encroached on the moments we’re capturing. You see it happen all the time – the “wait, wait, I just have to get a picture.” That picture is meant to catalog a moment so that it appears in the past, which we can then look at in the future to reminisce. But by orchestrating an action scene so that it’s just right, then Photoshop-ing and/or filtering it, that moment instantly becomes the past, without ever having lived it. The photo becomes the reason for the moment: Instead of the moment being the reason for the photo.

Think about the last concert or event you went to – don’t go to your phone to show the pictures or videos of the event, but actually take the time to think of the memories of that night.  What do you remember?  Chances are you don’t remember much because you spent majority of the night watching the concert through your smartphone as you tried to capture the perfect picture or video to post to your Facebook or Instagram.  Musician John Mayer recently talked about how he is affected by this phenomenon.  Mayer searches for his performances online in the hours after a concert to see if the audience really enjoyed themselves because during the concert “people aren’t going crazy.”  When Mayer looks into the crowd he notices the audience is “going crazy, but not for [him] … they’re applauding into the phone.”  Mayer searches for himself on Instagram after a show in order to “see how people would have cheered had they not had a phone in their hand.”

Not a diatribe

Social media has added so many positives to our lives. Friends. Family. Easily-activated activism. Broadened horizons. Shared moments and memories. This post isn’t an assault on social media. Rather, it’s a plea to manage it properly and a defense of real hugs, real stories, and creating memories we can actually enjoy in the moment and talk about in the future. So please, by all means, update, tweet, and post. Just don’t forget the underlying premise of social media: to be social in real life, current moments that you’d hate to miss.

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