We are social creatures; we crave community. And through technology, our communities have grown from just the people on our block to the entire world. With a single touch at any given moment, we can instantaneously get updates about the lives of people living across the globe, retweet a joke from a celebrity we’ve never met, and share photos of any experience we have.
So why are we being called the loneliest generation to date? In a world where time is money and new technology is created daily to make life simpler and more efficient, we have become addicted to the romance of it and lost sight of reality. Although written about a completely different situation, I think the chorus of John Conlee’s song Rose Colored Glasses explains our technological situation perfectly:
But these rose colored glasses
That I’m looking through
Show only the beauty
‘Cause they hide all the truth
Technology lets us share ourselves as we want to be seen. It has become the filter through which we share ourselves. We can take time to find the perfect wording of a Facebook post or edit all imperfections out of our next Instagram. We can take out anything that isn’t ideal to present the absolute best version of ourselves to the world all the time. It is so easy to hide the boring and awkward when you get to choose what people see.
But that is not always possible in a physical interaction, such as a face to face conversation. You don’t have the option to read their question repeatedly for a few hours before formulating the best response. You have three seconds to respond and once it’s out, there is no taking it back. There is no editing or masking and that frightens us. Social media has become such a large part of our lives that makes face to face interactions feel like stepping out of our comfort zone. So instead of risking an uncomfortable interaction, we stick to communicating through social media, constantly discussing nothing.
There comes the danger of our high-tech world. We often mistake constant communication for quality conversation. We use communication platforms promoting values like success and self-image to replace actual relationships. Since we are able to share every minute of our lives at the exact moment they happen, we think we can get away from personal interaction. But without those interactions, our instinctive need for community is not met, leaving us feeling unsatisfied and lonely. Ten second snapchats and continuous text conversations could never compare to the intimacy and meaning a person can get from a good conversation with someone who knows and cares for them.
So how do we counteract this? Do we have to delete all social media accounts and get rid of any distracting devices? No. Not all technology based interactions are inherently bad. Plus, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are not going away any time soon. The only thing we can do is remain aware of our time and how we spend it. We need to be present and engaged with the world around us by spending time in it, not posting photos of it.