On a recent 10 hour trip to Winnipeg I was in the car with my fiance and a friend of ours, who was bumming a ride with us. Somehow in the midst of the many conversations we had on the journey—which mainly involved putting the world to rights—we got on to the topic of people and their lack of social interaction.
Now, I like to think I’m quite a social person. I find it easy to strike up a conversation with anyone, along with most of my friends. And I’m sure there are many of you who are the same. However, as a member of the general public I’ve been witness to a number of social ineptness on more than one occasion. And I’m sure you have too. Think about it.
How many times have you been in a store, standing and looking at an item for a little longer than expected. Then as soon as you turn around there’s someone stood there, staring at you with that “look.” You know the “look” I mean? It’s like a cross between childlike impatience with a hint of derision.
Years ago if someone was standing in your way, you’d wait the expected time and if they went a couple of seconds over the accepted social convention, then you’d use the magical two words “Excuse me.” Simple. But does that happen now? Nope. We’re all guilty of that as for some bizarre reason we’ve all developed this inner attitude that makes us believe that no-one can say or ask us to do anything. Then on the flip side, because of this, we feel it to be inappropriate to ask or say something to anyone.
So why am I picking on social media again? Firstly, I’m not. I love social media. I think it’s great. For me it helps connect me with my friends who live thousands of miles away. But as with anything that’s good, there’s always a bad side. And at times I feel tools like Facebook and Twitter take away people’s natural ability to interact with society.
When was the last time you were excited, truly excited, to see someone? I bet 9 out of 10 of you are thinking “I was.” Well, I’m going to call you liars. Really, were you that excited? Everyone lives their lives like open-wounds now, so what’s exciting about seeing someone you already know everything that’s been happening to them? Yes, you might be happy to see them in person, but excited? Probably not. And besides if you know everything what do you talk about?
How many times have you started or been recipient to a conversation where after a 10 seconds you hear or utter “yeah, I saw that on Facebook”? That effectively kills the conversation.
Now it isn’t just social media that is to blame. The amount of gadgets we have at our disposal now isn’t helping our society to interact anymore than social media.
I was in a restaurant a few months back in my hometown. There was myself, my fiance, my brother and his girlfriend. We sat there, having a bite to eat and chatting. However, the table behind us consisted of a family of four: mom, dad, brother and sister (aged about 12 or 13). Throughout their entire stay the mom and dad chatted, but the sister spent the hour or so that she was there on her iPhone, and the brother played Angry Birds on his tablet. Both of them only pausing for a mouthful of food. I, well all of us, just found that odd.
If my family went for a meal when I was young, regardless of whether or not I had the most recent gadget at my finger tips (Walkman, Gameboy, TMNT action figure…insert you own late 80s item here), when we went out as a family, we’d talk and be social. That’s just how it was. But with what I’m witnessing now, what WE had as kids just seems so far away.
So where do we go from here?
Studies have shown that people are much more easily distracted by their smartphones or converse with one another less and less, especially kids and their parents. Therefore, it’s clear we’re aware there’s an issue with this problem, but is anyone prepared to stop it?
Should we hold an “International non-Social Media Day” to rival the current “Social Media Day”? Should parents not buy their children the latest gadgets and let them be ridiculed? I’m not one for pulling in the reigns on social media or new technology, but I have this feeling that if we don’t do something then we’re all heading towards a future of automatons.
But, that’s what we’re good at right? We, the world, tend to let these “little problems” (the future of energy resources, the environment) simmer, and then when it’s too late WE then try and rally around to solve it. Because, as we know, that method has really worked so far, right?