We’ve all experience the much too familiar situation where we send out a text message and instantly regret it. It’s the one that you thought was perfectly normal but after three whole minutes of not receiving a response, you’ve suddenly deemed it psychotic.
The insanity of this text message increases on an unprecedented level with each minute that passes. You have yet to see that tiny grey bubble with the three little dots that indicate the receiver on the other end is typing and you just might lose your mind. Why on Earth did you send that message? Was it too bold? Was it rude? Should you have said something completely different? Ladies and gentlemen, I will now introduce to you the very unnecessary social anxiety that comes with our digitized lifestyle.
At a specific point in our early stages of social development, we were first introduced to a familiar concept called “now or never”, a term that quite literally suggests if you can’t have it at this exact moment, what’s the point in having it later on?
But when exactly did this happen for us? Looking back on my own technological timeline, I’ve drawn the conclusion that our craving for instant gratification was born the moment we registered for our first AIM accounts.
If you were born in the 90’s, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Can you remember your first screename? It’s most likely something to laugh about now as it hardly depicts who you are as a person, but either way, we were all wrapped up and dragged into the birth of instant messaging. What a huge technological milestone to be a part of, right?
But even though we’ll forever be known as the IM guinea pigs, the concept of immediate communication without standing face-to-face with someone affected us on a much deeper level, and it all happened without our conscious awareness.
Here’s why our ability to achieve instant digital communication has actually led to our downfall.
1. It altered our expectations.
Technology has granted us the ability to achieve tasks at unprecedented speeds. Can you imagine learning any kind of information without the ease of looking it up on Google? Our parents used encyclopedias. That’s right, they learned new things by reading actual books.
But what this type of digital ability actually did was force us to expect instant results from anything we put out in the world.
For example, say you send out five job applications on Monday. Come Tuesday morning, you immediately open your inbox hoping to see a reply, but become disappointed when you realize no one’s responded. You then conclude that those who viewed your application must have thought you were under-qualified for the position.
However, what you’ve done here is assumed that since you’re using technology to achieve tasks instantaneously, everyone else must be doing the same. But you’re wrong.
Having access to everything at the touch of a keyboard has led us to form some pretty unrealistic expectations of what everyone else is doing, and we’ve forgotten that there’s still a huge digital divide between us and the older generations.
2. It made us impatient.
Say goodbye to reading in-depth articles on the Internet. Since the rise of the digital era, our human attention span has decreased to a “barely there” frame of time. By this, I don’t just mean we aren’t all capable of reading empirical research articles on the web. I mean there is legitimate evidence to say we can only pay attention to something for a matter of seconds before we become uninterested.
Twitter has left us with a 140-character limit to share our thoughts. We wouldn’t dream of clicking on a link to an article if there wasn’t a captivating photo associated and if the headline doesn’t leave us in suspense, why should we bother reading the rest?
The digital world has altered our lifestyle in such a way that’s left us restless, distracted and somewhat intolerant to anything that might take longer than a few seconds, hence creating a very short time frame for patience.
3. It made us lazy.
To be completely honest, having the ability to order food online during my college years was something of a gift from Heaven. Leaving the bars at 1 am, I’d open my app, click on my most frequent order that was already saved in my phone, and press send. No busy phone lines. No human communication.
As awesome as this sounds for every couch potato out there, what good is this ability actually doing for us?
Not only is it preventing us from engaging in normal, human interaction, but it’s also giving us the opportunity to eat fatty foods without having to do so much as put one foot in front of the other. Is it healthy? Absolutely not. I’d say on the wide spectrum of laziness, it far surpasses that of any drive-thru window.
The advancement of technology has surely done it all when it comes to making life as easy and efficient as possible. But at times, it’s failed to acknowledge how the quality of our lives may be simultaneously on the decline.
4. We’ve used it to excuse ourselves.
It’s simple: texting gets rid of all obvious social cues that come with verbally telling a lie. We can’t get caught because we have the time to perfectly construct a legitimate excuse and no one can call us out for stuttering or quickly changing the story under pressure.
If we wake up in the morning and just don’t feel like going to work, why not shoot our bosses a text and tell them we’re sick. It’s not like they can hear our perfectly healthy voices through the font on their screen.
Having the ability to digitally send a message allows us to escape the social anxiety of confrontation, and we may all have a little less of a spine because of it.
5. We’ve become less skilled at human interaction.
A social gathering in today’s world looks a whole lot different than it did in the 70’s. Have you ever found yourself out with friends only to look up and realize that instead of speaking with one another, each of you is enthralled with whatever’s on the screen of one’s own cell phone?
When it comes down to it, technology has taken away from the basis of our existence.
Since the beginning of man, we’ve survived and thrived off of language and verbal communication. We were able to develop skills like charisma, public speaking and interpersonal interaction solely through a shared speech established by our species. If we were never able to achieve verbal communication, can you imagine where we’d be today?
The versatile elements of the digital world have allowed us to avoid human interaction whenever we’d like, and it’s even become our preference to do so.
As a digital junkie myself, I’ve become blatantly aware of how my daily tasks and interactions are affected by the abilities of technology. I realized that I’d much rather text than call someone and I choose to order food online instead of over the phone whenever the opportunity presents itself.
To be honest, learning this about my own communication habits made me feel a little disheartened and ashamed. In my opinion, we’d all be much better off if we spoke one-on-one more often, even if it means opting to call instead of text.
So the next time you find your eyes glued to the screen of your iPhone, look up and carefully observe your surroundings. Spark up a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the subway or call up and old friend just to say hello. Our ability to verbally communicate via a mutually understood language is actually really fascinating, and when it allows you to make a connection with someone, there’s rarely anything that can replace the value of that.