It has been a few years since social media has taken off in the social and business aspects of our lives. It has been applauded and commended, specifically in the ease of access to networking and building a social life right from one’s abodes or computers. It has also been praised for changing the landscape of communication and much adulation has been given to it for enabling shy singles and introverts to communicate with one another via social websites, which includes dating websites.
While all this is well and good, a deeper examination into the mechanics of social media will reveal many flaws that hinder and impede up close and personal communications. Much as been said that people are now almost “programmed” to hook up with their mobile devices almost 24 hours a day, with their eyes fixated on the screens – to the point of being oblivious to their environments. Take a walk through any urban city and board any transport transport. And you will realise that nobody is communicating with one another, even if they are around a group of friends. Even if they do, few of them are totally focused on any conversations that ensue. Most would have been fiddling around with their mobile devices at some points in time.
If social media provides social comfort, we should see many smiling faces. But in reality, most social media users on mobile devices have blank faces, tapping aimless away at games on mobile devices as if to kill their boredom (or risk facing the straight faces of other strangers) or plugging their earphones into their ears (to ignore the rambling conversations of other commuters mere inches away from them)
Some might stroke their fingers across their touch-screen mobile phones to check updates on their friends who post images and text updates of their encounters with incidents and events. We have to really ask: is this really communication? Picking up random thoughts of others and then probably commenting on their daily affairs? Are we really friends of others when we act like this? Or – as one of my friends commented- “tabloid” readers and commentators? To make matters worse, the news are often not even a tad sensational in the first place.
It’s human nature to crave for attention. In the past, only celebrities are given this privilege but with social media, we are the content creators and hence we have the power to become celebrities ourselves if we manage to build ourselves a huge following. So, when social media makes that possible, everyone jumps on the wagon by creating whenever content they find interesting without even asking their friends: updates on their children, work stress, updates on their favourite celebrities, fan pages that they like and many more – without asking the most important questions of all: are their friends even interested? Celebrities are celebrities for a reason. People love them. People love the things they create and produce. Celebrities love attention but they don’t shove things onto people. They don’t compel their fans to read things that only they themselves are interested in. If fans don’t like their work, the fans will walk away and the celebrities’ fame fizzles out. It’s as simple as that.
But with social media, users often thrust what they deemed interesting onto their friends without considering if they are interested. When we have a mesh of such information loaded onto a social media website,what we get are tons of information that is often irrelevant to our lives, redundant to us going about our everyday lives, time wasted in reading such stuff where the same amount of time can be put into good use by reading some educational books that are useful to us (and of our own choosing) and most importantly, we sacrificed real time in communication face-to-face with others whenever we immerse ourselves in social media.
Like many others, I was also once an ardent fan of social media, grasping at any opportunities and seeking to learn the various features and functionalities of any upcoming and emerging social media websites. I joined the hype and loved the thrill of using them. However, after years of being a social media user, it seems that most social media do not improve the social lives of users.
Yes, we get updates of our friends – the food they eat, their children whom they play with, the concerts and events that they attend, the fan page that they adore..but at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves this: does knowing all this improve our relationships with our friends? On the surface, it seems that we get to know each other better..but delving deeper, is this really so? Think back of the times when you deepen your friendships with your friends. Was this how friendships deepen?
Maybe, on a superficial level.
If you are really honest with yourself, you would have realised that deep friendships are forged otherwise – through enabling others to be themselves around you (by letting them speak their minds about issues that matter to them but not consistently throwing everything that they find interesting at you in one go), lending a listening ear up close and personal to what matters to them, celebrating their achievements in person, travelling together on a trip – none of which social media are able to fulfill.
I have now chosen to forego most social media (save for this blog, which still serves a purpose of giving me a voice online and yet not compelling others to read them) and instead opted to arrange face-to-face meetings with my friends whenever possible because this may be the best and only way to communicate well and at a deep level. And when I meet the person, I would go forward, smile, look them in the eyes and tell them how much we can catch up on.
At least this is how I feel- that meeting in person is how deep and sincere friendships are forged and sustained.
Think about it. You might feel the same way.