It’s hard for me to live in the moment.
The bass is audible from the door, and with every thump of sound, my anticipation grows. I finally get through the door and make my way to the floor, pushing through the crowd to get as close to the stage as I can. By then the main act has taken his position on stage. My first instinct is to grab my phone so I can take a picture to post it. Instant likes from Instagram and mass replays from Snapchat validate my experience as one worth remembering. Retweets and shared Facebook posts reaffirm my status, and they let all of my friends know that I’m in the middle of a spectacle.
A sea of phone screens shine back at me while the camera flashes face the stage. The lights are off and the theater is dark, but I could have been fooled. From the phone lights alone, the stage was nearly illuminated. For a moment, I felt connected and engaged with my friends through this virtual medium. The light show begins, and I slid my phone into my pocket. For the first time since getting to the concert, I could enjoy the show, but I had nobody to enjoy it with. All I could focus on was the amount of phones held up in the air by hands of social media moguls. My feelings of connection swiftly faded away to a sensation of drifting on a raft of isolation amidst a sea of lifeless faces focused on brightened phone screens.
This reality seems to have become the societal norm for people my age. Everywhere I go, there are countless faces droned into a virtual world. I’m guilty of such behavior as well. I can’t fall asleep until my Instagram is checked and my Snapchat story is up to date. This is what makes me crave a change. Social media dominates the social lives of myself and those around me. It leaves me worried about the value of true social interaction. It has become an abused platform, and instead of making people more social, as the name implies it should, it has caused an immense amount of antisocial behavior.
Social media has become the latest drug that people have been overindulging in, but instead of being harmful to the health of the individual, it is harmful to their real world social skills. According to a study conducted by the Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange, a global independent market research company ranking third worldwide among research firms, the average adult aged between 18 and 34 spend at least 3.8 hours a day engaged in social network platforms (Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange). A similar study conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that 71% of adults in this same age demographic are active on social media sites of some sort (Pew Research Center). This means that about 71% of adults are spending about 96 days out of their whole year on social media. As startling as that statistic is, I am not surprised.
As I walk around my college campus, I can’t help but notice the sheer amount of people with their attention completely engaged on their phone. I’m not the only person who feels like this either. When asked about the topic, Trey Wilder, a second year aerospace engineering major at the California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo says that “people [at Cal Poly] use social media way too much. It’s like they assess their self-worth through the amount of likes that they get on those sites. [Social media’s] become a large part of people’s identities.” Another student at the university has some similar beliefs as well. Matt Carter, a first year at Cal Poly feels that he feels “interactions are being replaced by interactions over social media.” John Czaplewski, a first year physics major, says that the overuse of social media comes from “FOMO” or “fear of missing out.” He says that people depend on social media to stay connected and informed. This mindset of dependency on social media for validation and connection is isolating people from each other.
When I went home from college for Thanksgiving break, the thing I was looking forward to most was the time I was going to get to spend with my friends back home I hadn’t seen in months. When we all finally found the time to hanging out, I still felt alone. Every time conversation slowed in the slightest, everyone in the room swiftly drew their phones out, and the room fell quiet. This happened multiple times, with the length ranging anywhere between just a couple minutes to half an hour. All this demonstrates to me is that my friends were more concerned with keeping their Facebook updated than keeping updated with their friends in the room.
I propose a simple solution: simply use your phone less. Accidentally forget your phone at home one day and get to know some people that you haven’t gotten to know very well yet. Whenever I go on a date I try to leave my phone in my car so I don’t get distracted, and the results have been great. I have yet to have a boring date since starting this habit. Keeping your phone in your backpack or purse so it is slightly less accessible than directly in your pocket can be a simple way to make it just a little more inconvenient to access can help engage you more in the world rather than keeping a lifeline to the ever-expanding realm of social media.
Social media is by no means an evil entity. There is potential for great things to develop through the medium, but the abuse of the resource has created an empty social environment. Moderation is the key to maximizing the productivity and true “social” aspect of social media, but the constant overindulgence in the short-term pleasures of it invade everyday life. Social media doesn’t need to be an entity to depend on for social validation. Self-worth should not be defined by amounts of “likes” or “followers”.
The trend of social media obsession can easily be curbed by personal moderation, and it only takes small steps to achieve. Enjoy moments as they happen instead of frantically trying to capture it for the sake of posting it. It’s as easy as leaving your phone in your pocket or purse. This small step has the capacity to begin a new social reinvigoration for Cal Poly’s campus as well as everywhere there is potential for social interaction, and I believe that together we can all reap the benefits of actively socializing outside the confines of social media platforms.