Howard Rheingold got it right. Social has a shape. The way we socialize—at least the way we do so online—is very different from how humans have socialized in the past. It’s calculated, it’s systematic, and it’s cold. This post is probably going to sound really depressing, so I just want everyone to know that I still think humans are completely capable of socializing face to face. I’m not one of those people who waves their fists lamenting about the death of good ol’ fashion normal human interaction, recounting how the young generations are slowly turning into robots. Despite all the new age technology and the social barriers and bridges that come with it, I think we as humans can handle it. That being said—before I get off on too much of a tangent—I do think that there is a huge problem with social media and media technologies and the way that it affects our relationships and the ways we interact not only with other people, but with ourselves.
Like the Chris Anderson and Michael Wolf article said, people are using the Web less and substituting it for easier ways to access the internet, such as apps. Most notably among these phone, tablet, and computer apps are social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Now comparing your life to your friend’s is just a simple tap away. As these social media outlets become more and more popular, anxiety and depressive behaviors rise along with it. Rheingold pointed to a specific study in his article at the University of California at San Diego where political scientist James Fowler and Harvard Medical School sociologist Nicholas Christakis reported from their research that “people’s happiness is influenced by how happy their friends, neighbors, and coworkers are.”
Excessive time on social media is rendering individuals depressive and socially anxious. As Amanda Enayati discussed in her article, people are literally becoming more depressed by the minute as they scroll through their friend’s social media feeds. Here’s my diagnosis: The issue is that people think everyone is having fun without them. When in reality, everyone is scrolling through everyone else’s social media feeds feeling just as envious and left out.
People fail to remember that their friends only post the good pictures from their lives, the good statuses where they’re having fun or being social. Except for the occasional “Facebook complainer”, people pick and choose the moments they share on Facebook, selecting only their happy or bright moments. Most people aren’t going to post on Facebook: “I’m so alone in my room right now with no one to keep me company except the silence of my nonexistent friends and the deafening screams of my anxiety shouting from the deepest, most vulnerable and insecure chambers of my soul.” It’s just not going to happen. People will, however, share a picture on Instagram about their new car, tweet about how awesome the concert they just went to was, or post a giant collage of pictures of themselves with their best friends at some party that you weren’t invited to.
It comes down to the fact that people need to use social media as a gift, not as a punishment for not doing as much with your life as Jim is down the street. Sure, share a funny picture with some friends here or there, but for the most part, just be content with your own life and stop comparing it (digitally or otherwise) to others’.