I’ll start with Japan (where I’m currently living and teaching English). There is no better example of how over-dependent we have become on smartphones than Tokyo, the world’s most populous metropolis. For me personally, it’s also the coldest city that I have ever visited, and I’m not talking about the weather.
You can’t walk on any train in Japan and not see almost 80-90% of the people on their smartphone. You’ll be hard pressed to find genuine human interaction or conversation during your commute in Tokyo. It just feels like people are always looking down at their phones or ahead to the next destination, instead of living in the moment. It amazes me with how many people there are in Tokyo (around 13.5 million) that people can still feel lonely. I have had multiple friends who live in Tokyo tell me that it’s hard to meet new people. One of them even broke their contract and quit their job early to head back home because the loneliness was too unbearable.
To be fair, this doesn’t just occur in Tokyo. Even in the countryside, I walked into a cafe and ran into two of my students having lunch together. But instead of talking to each other, they were glued to their phones for the whole hour that they were there. Not one word was spoken between the two the entire time.
We are forgetting how to interact with each other.
Human interaction is becoming more extinct by the day. That fact that having great communication skills is something we put on our resume should be enough evidence. Human interaction and communication shouldn’t be skills, but essentials for all of us. Are we wasting years of our life because we are more concerned with what is on the screen of our phones instead of the world around us? It’s crazy for me to think about all the opportunities that are missed on a daily basis by perhaps just not talking to that one person on the train. That person could have changed our perspective on something, helped us grow as a person, or even have played a meaningful role in our lives moving forward. We have to live with the fact that we will never now what impact that person could of made, and that is a heavy burden.
Now lets look at the situation in America, where people are over-sharing about their lives, as opposed to the Japanese way of maybe not sharing enough. In Japan you will have a hard time finding many pictures of a Japanese person on their Facebook, whereas an American person might have too many. Now before you call me a hypocrite, I will be the first to admit that I am my own worst critic (my Snapchat back in college was the worst) and that I too fall victim at times to what I’m going to talk about with social media in America, particularly Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram.
With that said, I would like to clearly state there is nothing wrong with posting a Facebook status or Instagram photos to let people know how we are doing and what is new with our lives. I can’t argue that in moderation, things like Facebook and Instagram can be rather useful because they allow us to keep in contact with an infinite amount of family members and friends who we simply do not have the time to communicate with on a daily basis. With that said, social media has now gone far beyond that and become almost unbearable, to the point now where people are posting photos of stuff they did weeks ago or strategically posting things at certain times where they know they will get the most likes possible. And don’t even get me started on posting photos of FOOD. The occasional post is fine I suppose, but do I really need to know what you had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner every day?
We are becoming consumed with validating our lives and worth through what our peers think of us instead of validating our lives ourselves.
Through social media we have created the perception that our lives are a lot more exciting than they actually are, creating a false reality, which we now find ourselves – dare I say – forever entangled in. In America it feels like we are always trying to one up the next person instead of just enjoying and being grateful of the moment at hand.
Although I always knew this issue existed, I didn’t really realize how much control and influence social media had on my life until I deactivated my Facebook in order to focus on my online graduate course and Japanese language efficiency test. It was almost like getting rid of a drug addiction when I first deactivated it because I would instinctively type in Facebook without even really wanting to use it. It got to the point that I had to put a block on Facebook just to avoid accidentally logging in. In the beginning it bothered me because I wasn’t able to keep in contact and know what all my social media connections were up to, but then I realized that it’s okay not to always know, because that’s what makes the next encounter special. For the first time in a very long time, I was actually able to hear myself think in my own head. It was like the mute button inside of me was turned off and I was able to have conversations with myself again instead of substituting it with mindlessly scrolling around on my phone. Now I’m trying to go through each day by taking in and appreciating everything around me that maybe I use to take for granted or perhaps never noticed because I was so caught up on my phone. Turning off my phone most of the day and only using it when I really need it has taken me back to the days growing up with my old boost mobile phone. When life was simple and not overly complicated.
With that said, I’ll probably find myself reactivating Facebook in a few. I told you I’m my own worst critic. I’m a fucking hypocrite.