As an object, the phone is of absolutely no use itself – just a small plastic body manufactured to glint like chrome in the sunlight. It’s weight, size, and feel have been constructed to accommodate perfectly to the average human hand, arguably even more so than the hand of another human being that was so meticulously crafted by mother nature. People don’t hold each other’s hands anymore, they hold onto their cell phones with a selfish grip, as if they’re newborns threatening to be ripped from the bosom.
We are succumbing to the astounding powers of technology and not relying enough on our own memories. I fear that the creative part of our brains is atrophying and that technology is permanently damaging the way we operate and interact with each other.
And nobody is asking you to post, or tweet, or snap, or insta.
But what if they did? What would people say if you asked them to share something real, something tangible and meaningful? Would you take the time to think about your answer or fire off the first thing that came to mind?
I decided to challenge this, and over the course of a few months, began asking strangers, family, and friends alike the same, simple question:
If you were given a blank sheet of paper and had the opportunity to write a letter containing the same message to every single person on the planet, what would you write?
I would hand these strangers my notebook, either on the train or waiting at a bus stop or in a classroom, and they would sit quietly and really think about what it is they want to say. My question represented an obviously inflated version of social media, but its answers revealed a lot about what people had to say when asked. Here are the first handful of entries from my notebook:
“When you look at the world, it is so easy to see all the pain, all the suffering, all of the wrong. Yet humans have this amazing capacity to love, to be kind and courageous. We can do so much damage, be so greedy and so destructive. We are on the brink of a turning point, and we can choose which way we turn: to the good or to the ugly. Let us save our world. It is the only one we have!”
“Believe in people.”
“Love is not a burden.”
“This world is no longer the world it should be; we all need to learn to help and support each other rather than compete.”
“Have a nice day.”
“Bring peace to the world.”
“Do as much as you can to help others in need, smile at everyone you see, and live a happy, positive life.”
“Be nicer to people.”
“Don’t be so quick to judge, you have no idea what someone else has been through.”
“When you speak to someone, open your eyes and really look at them. Don’t bury your face or fingers into your phone but hold your head high, shoulders back, and open yourself and your mind up to learning about the lives of others. You have to sit and stand close to each other, face each other squarely, and devote the senses wholeheartedly to one another.”
Why is it that we are so focused on spreading our selfies far and wide when nobody is asking for them? Sure, it’s not harming anyone, but it’s taking up energy that could be used elsewhere. The message, maybe, from this whole pseudo-social experiment of mine is to put more thought into your next post or tweet or snap, and think of the ways you would like your actions to impact the rest of society. Social media is an incredible tool that can and should be used to make positive change, and I don’t think enough people realize that.