In an era where everyone is connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, how are we lonelier than ever? This is a time where we have more ways to connect to any person we want to, but the least genuine personal interaction of any other human in history. We are lonely because we have no real friends anymore. We are lonely because relationships are an endangered species. What was once the greatest technological advance, the internet, is now what is tearing humanity apart.
The Social Experiment
Facebook has recently released a new way to express your reactions to people’s posts. It seems fun, but it wasn’t really for the user. It’s for them. They collect the data on how you react positively or negatively to posts, so they can customize your feed and try to make you use Facebook more and more.
Instagram recently followed suit with filtering posts to “most watched” rather than chronological order. Everything is trying to make you use it more, stay on it longer, and fill all your time staying “connected”.
Snapchat recently started trying to cover all the bases by attempting to reach for the stars and become the app for everything. Pictures, calls, messaging, news reporting, hollywood stars, advertising. They have it all. What was once a sad form of junior high sexting is now an app that appeals to the broad social audience.
All of these networks have one thing in common: They know something.
They are all conducting the same studies, getting the same analytics, and coming to the same conclusions. They know how to psychologically bait us until we bite, then they just reel us in slowly. Social media isn’t social, it’s a drug, and we are all addicts. But more on that in my next blog post.
Science reveals that humans are the most social primates in all of creation, and one of the most social of all mammals. We naturally crave social interaction, and we seek it out at every turn. We need real connection with others to remain mentally and emotionally healthy. Yet we are constantly settling for inauthentic connections and relationships. It’s like when you slowly replace water with soda. It feels like it’s quenching your thirst for a while, but eventually you just don’t feel as well as you used to, and your body begins to show serious signs of bad health. Often times it’s a the kidney stone, the diabetes, heart problems, or intense weight gain that tells us that maybe our decision to quench our thirst with something other than water was a bad idea, when we should’ve made better decisions to begin with.
Humans need the real thing. In a previous post, I talk about authenticity. I think it applies here as well. When we rediscover authenticity for ourselves, we begin to recognize inauthentic connection in our life.
Kill The Monster
What we are facing is whole generations of people who have a lack of social understanding, communicative skills, relational maturity, and an irrationally inflated ego. Kids actually think the world revolves around them, because in their Facebook world, or their Instagram world, it does! Everything is about how many likes, follows, subscribers, retweets, or any other form of false affection we can garner. We have allowed this ridiculously cold and heartless system to define our worth. People have been known to experience intense anxiety and depression for the same reasons.
Unfortunately, I don’t see this trend changing any time soon. It will be a while before the world realizes what monster they’ve created. It will be even longer before they realize they will have to try to kill that monster. I’m not very optimistic about that.
However, I do have control over my own life. I recently deactivated my Facebook profile. Yes, I still have my other accounts, but I’ve limited the role of those accounts in my life as well. I’ve been working on consciously making an effort to redefine what things like Facebook really are. Admittedly, it’s much easier for me than it would be for my teenage in-laws, but it’s difficult none the less. I think I have less of a problem with letting social media influence my lack of connectedness, but rather letting it give me a sense of false connectedness. I find myself not talking to anyone for extended amounts of time because things like Facebook gives me the feeling that I’m well attuned to those I care about, and therefore have no need to have a conversation with them, thereby further perpetuating a lack of connectedness and causing all relationships to suffer.
I think the monster will present itself somewhat differently to different people. I’m an introvert, so naturally I can easily go extended amounts of time not talking to people and be alright. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. (refer back to the “thirst” metaphor).
Ultimately, I think it will get way worse before we see any positive progress. So why write a blog post about it? Well, this was never meant to be a “self-help” blog. It’s merely my story and what I’m experiencing, feeling, or thinking about. This is what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
The next post will be somewhat of a continuation of this conversation, but more on the side of addiction.
I hope this was somehow helpful to you, nonetheless, and encourages you to reexamine your own life and extent of the role social media plays in it.