How we became unsociable with technology and social media
by Eunice Guadalope
I dare you, right now. Log off from Facebook, turn off your smart phones, and unplug the earphones. Maintain this for a few minutes and look at the person closest to you. Is he or she a family member, friend, acquaintance or perhaps a stranger? Why not start a conversation, cultivate deeper, offline relationship, and, for a while, keep your hands off the touch screens and keypads.
For some, switching off the power button is easy. These are just man-made gadgets, right? However, more people are becoming so closely intertwined with technology that when you ask them to turn it off, you might as well ask them to chop one of their limbs off. Imagine, just the very thought of going through a day without gadgets and signing in to social media is unbearable.
They may be the busy office professionals who constantly check on their email and message inboxes for any update while on the dining table with their family on a weekend. They are the teens who constantly post on Facebook and Twitter about how much fun they are having in a party – while in the event itself, surrounded by friends, who are also glued to their respective mobile devices.
The sad ironic truth is, our overdependence on gadgets and social media, supposed to bring people closer, can make us anti-social. As such, it may have caused us to offend a friend, miss an opportunity to make one, or ignore a parent, child, or sibling and it’s all because we were too busy playing a game, chatting, or having fun online with someone who is actually miles away.
Why are we so stuck to our gadgets, in the first place, anyway?
First reason, we are so used to instant information and communication that we can’t be apart from the devices that provide us with this kind of security. Mind you, this didn’t just happen overnight. Many of today’s young people and yuppies are digital natives – they have grown up, at the very least, knowing what a computer and Internet connection were, gotten familiar with mobile phones, and have become intimate with social networking sites.
Yes, there are still areas here where technology hasn’t yet fully penetrated, among other factors. However, that didn’t hinder the Philippines from being dubbed as the “Social Networking Capital of the World,” according to a study by the 24/7 Wall St. in 2011.
Second reason, we sleep and eat with our gadgets by our side because we have FOMO – fear of missing out. Pronounced as fo-mo, it’s a growing phenomenon that sounds silly, but is actually serious enough that it has been given a name. You may ask, “Why will you be afraid of missing out on anything when you and your friends are all connected?”
FOMO is more than fear, mind you. It is the “blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media,” wrote Jenna Wortham in an article for New York Times on April 9, 2011. It’s that growing feelings of envy and self-pity inside of you as you see someone’s latest vacation photos, the party announcement, or food trip ‘selfies’ where you were not invited. This drags you down so you keep on checking your newsfeed, hoping that you will not miss out next time again.
Third reason, everyone’s connected, that is, plugged to their devices. Social networking provides cheap and fast communication to companies and businesses. It’s so effective that employees are also given phones connected to these services to ensure that they will always stay in the loop. Facebook, Twitter, and email have made learning more fun and interactive, too. Group works, especially, have never been made easier. These are legitimate reasons why you should stay connected, as well.
Even if you’re not an office worker or student, you have an active Facebook account that you can access on your mobile because the technology is there and is accessible and affordable. Surely, there’s nothing wrong with that.
As well as for the rest of the reasons, these are not bad things at all. These briefly explain why the public is so taken with technology and social media that have indeed made lives easier. These may also help explain why it’s easy for users to go overboard so that they become anti-social. How do we become anti-social? How do we lose our touch with people when we connect to social media? Check out the following ways:
1. ‘PHUBBING’ – Have you snubbed anyone as you fiddled on your phone? Then, you may have just ‘phubbed’ someone. This new kind of rudeness is the habit of ignoring people around you and focusing on your device. Regardless whether the person on the other end deserves it or not, you must be courteous enough to appear that you are attentive. If you need to contact someone or type something, at least ask your companion if he or she can excuse you for a while because you have something urgent to do.
2. PEOPLE TEND TO BE LESS POLITE ON SOCIAL MEDIA – STUDY
An online survey of 2,698 respondents done last year in the U.S. revealed a distressing trend –online users tend to be less polite (http://www.crucialskills.com/2013/04/antisocial-networks-hostility-on-social-media-rising-for-78-percent-of-users/). It’s true that there is more freedom for self-expression on the Internet, given the lack of visible censors; however, some people have used it as an excuse to be rude. They make offensive jokes and deliberately post provoking comments that it becomes cyber-bullying. They thought they could get away with it because there’s no face-to-face interaction involved. They do this sometimes just to rack up more likes, views, shares, and comments.
What is the drawback? You can never erase anything that you have posted or uploaded. Don’t be surprised when someone has unfriended, unfollowed, and blocked you both online and offline because of something careless and heartless you said.
3. THE PROBLEM WITH MULTI-TASKING – One of the benefits of the current technology is that it allows you to do more than one thing at a same time. You can listen to music, download a file, and type on our smart phone or tablet all at the same time. Just imagine the time and effort that you have saved! Just don’t juggle all of these while you’re out with your family or friends. It’s not like you are ‘phubbing’ because you still try to interact with people, but your divided attention may lead to some confusion and miscommunication.
4. WHAT’S IN A LIKE?
There’s more to a Facebook like than you realize. When you hit on the like button on someone’s post, you give positive feedback to that person and let him or her know that you approve of whatever they have posted. The problem here, however, is that you may read too much into these virtual non-verbal communication going on in your newsfeed.
You know that giddy feeling when your crush liked one of your status updates. Yet, does this mean that he likes you or did he just love the picture of the steaming bowl of ramen noodles that you uploaded? You may have been down because none of your friends liked any of your posts. Don’t conclude right away that they don’t care about you! Maybe they’re just busy or probably you accidentally set the privacy settings of your profile so that only you can see your posts.
Some words of advice: When online, don’t just keep on pressing the like button on your friends’ posts and leaving it at that. Engage your peers into a conversation by posting a comment or sending a private message.
5. DON’T GET TOO CAUGHT UP IN STORING AND SHARING MEMORIES; MAKE THEM
Phone cameras and image and video-sharing applications, like Instagram, have made it easy for anyone to capture special moments for posterity. In a few clicks, you have uploaded the video of your baby taking his or her first steps or the picture at the concert grounds where your favorite artist will perform minutes from now.
However, sometimes, you get too caught up in recording the whole event that you ended up as a spectator. You are more concerned on how the picture or video will turn out and how soon you can upload these than about your own child or the concert. Saving these memories and uploading these in real time are well and good, but making memories is what counts in the end.
Do you feel lonely, although you have hundreds of friends or followers on social media? Or have you realized that you might have taken someone for granted while you’re glued to your phone or tablet? You don’t have to feel that way. Remember, just take everything in moderation, especially when it comes to connecting online and using your phones and tablets. Take the first step and reach out to your online peers in the real world.
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