Thought Catalog
August 28, 2014

8 Frightening Ways Social Media Is Molding Us

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For the longest time, I questioned the sanity of people who were perpetually drawn to staring at their pelvis. I used to raise an eyebrow at this madness, but then a light bulb flicked on one day: Oh, it’s that snazzy little gadget they’re drawn to! It’s everywhere. Church, parties, classes, get togethers. Once I even saw a couple out on a date who were staring more romantically at their iPhones than each other. Perhaps they were just Facebook chatting in hopes to get to know each other. My bad.

Whatever the case is, it seems that these devices are causing a lot more damage than simply brainwashing and making us speak their alienating language.

Actually, while I enlighten you, I’m going to take a picture of my #smoothie and the #sunrise and then squeeze my microscopic boobs together to get a sexy Instie shot. Eh, what the heck – I’m not wearing makeup anyway, so I’ll say I’m doing the #nomakeup challenge while I’m at it. Moving on.

I. Social Media Is Ruining Small Talk

…At least for my generation.

I find that when I introduce myself to teens and even some young adults, they have great difficulty keeping any sort of flow in conversation. This is especially a problem for those who migrate towards the quieter side, as they are only training themselves to stay quiet. I’m not saying that they need to present a monologue, because hey, I’m introverted myself and understand not wanting to babble and carry on with everything. I’m saying that because they have social media to occupy them and fill in any silence, they have no incentive to practice the art of meeting someone. They are teaching themselves to use social media as a crutch when they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Because of this, they lack communication skills (before you get defensive, understand that Twitter doesn’t count) and simply cannot add onto conversation or respond to basic questions in an articulate way.

II. Social Media Is Blocking Community With One Another

Look around the room. Do you see one person who isn’t locked onto their device?

I didn’t think so either. This is the one that gets to me the most. We no longer have real community with one another. Sure, it may be you and some good friends in the same room, but are you speaking to each other, or is there an overall silence with the occasional clicking of the phone keys? Maybe you are speaking; but is it staggered with glancing up and down at your Facebook feed? It saddens me that a screen filled with snippets of what others are doing interrupts the time and beauty of community with the important people in your life. Are you listening? Nothing tears deeper than trying to speak your heart to someone and your attention being rivaled with their phone. Put your phone down and really listen. Staggering important conversation with social media is not only ignoring the other, but also insulting and self-centered (and trust me, they can sense it too). What we must realize is that now is now. These conversations and community are what we will remember and hold close to in life and the years to come.

III. Social Media Is Making Us Stupid

If someone begins to speak in text and Internet slang, flee; as they have been infected and are now a part of the apocalypse (if they take a Snapchat picture of you, quickly deactivate their account before the infection takes its toll on you too). There was once a dark time in my life. At 10 years old, this dark time was caused by an infectious disease known as Club Penguin. I was introduced to a world full of multi-colored penguins saying things like, “ROFL”, “lol lol jk”, “ur rlly funny”. Why, a new language! Little did I know, these multi-colored penguins were out to deceive me. The infection spread throughout my intellect, and left me exclaiming madness such as, “BRB!” to excuse myself from any circumstance. The infection eventually ceased, but with much grace and knowledge others contributed towards my intellect.

No matter how hilarious our run on sentences seem, and no matter how bubbly and white we sound talking about our totes adorbs “PINK” sweatpants, social media is a deceitful little booger that attempts to mesh cyber world with the real world (and, makes us stupid). It’s sort of like the serpent in the Garden of Eden…but with a digital form of the “Apple”.

p.s. Spell check is killing me right now.

IV. Social Media Is Portraying Our Self Worth As “Likes”

Unfortunately, we now base who we are on the amount of “likes” and “hearts” and “favorites” on social media. The more, the better. It’s a way of receiving reassurance without asking for it. We find our self worth in typing out a clever status or posting a captivating photo or copying/pasting a Marilyn Monroe quote, and eagerly waiting for the “likes” to rise to the number that pleases us. If we don’t reach what we mentally label “Good enough”, then we’re suddenly failures. Someone else reached 200 “hearts” on their filtered Instagram selfie, but you only reached 20. Chuck Norris retweeted someone else’s Chuck Norris joke, but not yours. Maybe you should just give up, because you’re apparently not pretty enough or smashingly hilarious or “Instagram famous”, right?

Wrong.

Numbers on social media amount to nothing. It’s a way of showing that we saw a post and want to leave a history mark that we connected with it (no pun intended) in some way. People aren’t comparing your photo or status or tweet to someone else’s and deciding who deserves the number. Numbers simply cannot determine our self worth. Our self worth consists of our philosophy, attitudes toward life and toward others, our actions, our own uniqueness and who God created us to be.

V. Social Media Is Making Us Narcissistic

Flooding your social media feeds with post workout photos, your half naked body, mirror selfies of flexed muscles (Guys, we saw you in the Burger King drive-thru), BOOBS (Ladies, it’s more than not being able to play hide-and-seek), no makeup selfies (whaaaat?), your daily plate full of greens, and of course, the obligatory duck face, are used as tools to give a sense of self-esteem, which then leads to narcissism. Don’t deny it. We like compliments, but simply liking them is not the issue – the constant need for them is. When we reach the point of figuring out what about us gets the compliment and attention, we take that and run with it. Whether it’s your Paleo Diet or your cleavage, the result is a page full of you and a big ego.

p.s. Some of you likely argue that you post for you, to which I respond – Why do you not write these things and plaster photos of your half naked body in a diary rather than public sites?

VI. Social Media Is Wasting Our time

And we wonder why we don’t get anything accomplished at the end of the day? Sure, Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga (by the way, I’m banishing anyone from my friend list if I get another darn request) may be fun and give you a good thumb workout, but what did you accomplish that is going to benefit you or someone else? Did you actually accomplish anything by spending half of your day scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and Twitter? Do you feel like you are really living by constantly snapchatting pointless videos? These social media activities have no substance. It benefits your online profile, but not the air you breathe and the world you live in. As stressed earlier, now is now.

VII. Social Media Is Ruining Our Reputations

“If you want to know who somebody really is, go to their Twitter account.”

Though Facebook and Instagram have their share, Twitter is what sticks out like a sore thumb. Don’t let Twitter’s slogan fool you. This place is a personal dumping ground. It’s filled with people who post every detail of the dirt in their life and all things that would make their parents cringe. I’ve seen gossip, erotic material, pessimistic attitudes, offensive language. Have you heard of sub-tweeting? If this is a new term to you, sub-tweeting is the art of tearing someone apart and gossiping about them, but leaving off their name. I’ve seen that too. I’ve seen the beginnings of it, and I’ve also seen the result of the victim realizing they are being attacked – and it’s painful to watch unfold. I’ve known folks who have lost jobs due to posts on social media. I’ve known folks who have done their share of posting absolutely unnecessary things. I’ve had my share of posting negative things, which is precisely why I chose to deactivate my account last year.

You may have an issue with something or have a crappy day, but Twitter is not the place to express it. That’s what trusted friends and the diary are for. Never assume that your tweets aren’t being read and that it is a safe place to vent. The more negativity you post, the more negativity you will keep finding. Deactivate your account if you have to. Your reputation is at stake here.

VIII. Social Media Is Making Life Seem Meaningless

What happened to just enjoying the moment? Every single detail of our lives are either photographed or written out for everyone to see. It would be different if these posts were sporadic, but we are inundated with them. The picture of the sunrise suddenly looks dull, the cute kid gets annoying, the green smoothie looks more and more like spit up, the witty status about pizza loses its zing, the covers of “Let It Go” make us want to sledgehammer our laptops. It’s too much. Is it impossible to stay in the present, in the now, in the moment, and not feel forced to pull out the device to document all of the details? Sometimes moments are meant to stay as moments. Those are what we will remember on down the line and smile about as we reminisce, not silly VSCO Cam photos and status updates. Like the old saying states, “Less is more.” Will we tell our great grandchildren all of the adventures we had, the wonderful conversations we shared, the beautiful and messy lives we lived; or that 90% of our time was spent with an electronic device interrupting the purity and simplicity of moments? The fondest memories I have are those when loved ones and I lived in the moment and simply enjoyed good company…but without the electronic device interrupting. There is laughter, there is authenticity, there is beauty in going through life and just living. These are the moments we will remember. These are the moments we will cherish and hold close to. These are the moments that makeup life.

So, I challenge you: Put the phone down. Put the iPod down. Click out of Facebook and close the laptop. Stop worrying about the red notification. Stop worrying about what others are doing. Enjoy the now. Live. TC mark

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