I t’s not often that you see a millennial writing a column about the need to exercise restraint with social media and smartphone use. But that’s precisely what I’ll be writing about this week.
As one who has grown up throughout the Digital Revolution, I’ve become accustomed to seeing technology change and improve at a rapid pace. I might not have been born with a smartphone in my hand, but I readily adapted to using its features and loving its capabilities. And I’ve certainly utilized Facebook over the years to connect with family and friends across the globe, as well as Linked In to gather professional contacts.
Altogether, social media has enormous benefits. It allows us to post important happenings in our lives, catch up with loved ones we haven’t seen in years and share thoughts on popular trends or current events. We can also use social media to help launch a business, promote a blog or draw support for a charitable cause.
Yet, social media has also created intricate problems in our world; particularly, the decline of face-to-face conversation.
Now, I get it. If you’re waiting in a doctor’s office or the DMV, you’re probably not going to exchange small talk with other people sitting near you. Checking social media on your phone sounds like a better way to pass the time. But when 18 out of 20 people seated in a classroom are surfing their phones and not even bothering to exchange eye contact with one another during the entire class period…that’s a little alarming. This was a common sight that I witnessed during my college years. (Not to blow my own horn or anything, but I was usually among the two people not glued to a phone).
But the disconnect doesn’t just occur among strangers. So many times, I’ve seen families at a restaurant— Dad, Mom and kids—all hunched over their devices and barely saying a word to each other.
We live in a world that’s more connected than ever before. Yet, when it comes to personal one-to-one communication, it seems like we’re growing farther apart as a society.
Social media has also furthered issues like polarization and misinformation and given some individuals the excuse to be excessively rude, mean-spirited or crude. It seems that people have become emboldened to post outrageous or false statements on social media because they can hide behind the safety of their phones or computers and not have to respond to someone else face-to-face.
The issue of social media/ technology-driven disconnect isn’t just a problem contained to millennials and Gen Zers. Nor is it a passing trend. It’s something that we’ve all been guilty of at some point in varying degrees.
To break the disconnect cycle, we should be prudent with the time we spend online and on our devices. Sometimes, we just need to set the darn phone down and/or take a break from social media. We also need to develop healthier and longer-lasting communication with our loved ones. And just maybe, a little small talk with someone at the dentist office could help to brighten their day… and ours.
In other words, it’s time to reconnect face-to-face with other people in our world, instead of just via Facebook.
Ben Gagnon is a reporter for View Newspaper Group. You can contact him at 810-452-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.