There was once a time when being social meant going out with friends or visiting a local coffee shop to chat with other patrons. Today, being communal includes not actually talking to anyone at all, but posting or chatting on social media. Every thought, feeling or incident may be shared with the world instantly and people no longer have to hone social skills in order to be popular or heard. While many argue this progression is a great boost for introverts, many more argue that it may not be progressive at all. In fact, it may be detrimental to relationships.
A popular video on YouTube perfectly explains the sometimes harmful nature of the involvement. Well-meaning parents attempt to occupy their child’s attention with tablet or smart phone video games and romantically involved couples often find themselves tuning each other out and their smart phones in. The video emphasizes the issues of ironically becoming an introvert through social media.
Many commercials about the effects of social media on personal relationships mimic the intentions of the YouTube video. One commercial depicts a daughter on vacation with her family, though the entire time she is engrossed in her smart phone. In another, a couple who have reached a communication barrier due to the woman’s involvement in her smart phone, though the man mediates the problem by asking via text that she pay attention to him. The catch with these commercials is that by the end the viewer is convinced that this behavior is the new norm and good always comes from these situations. The message is that it is okay for people to be engrossed in technology, even in intimate situations in life. Of course, many believe that these behaviors are okay and social media is very progressive for those who had trouble connecting before.
Social media allows people who generally do not feel confident in social environments to have some form of a social life. They may prefer to communicate with people over the internet rather than in public. This is not necessarily a negative approach to a social life. For some, this opens up a whole new, comfortable world. Social media have also been a huge help for people and places in need. Take, for example, the disappearance of a teenager and the capacity of social media to alert the country about the disappearance and sometimes bring the teen home. It also alerts people about problem situations in the world immediately so those who are able can help.
Many social media advocates suggest that the key to a positive social media experience is balance. It is important to know when to put a smart phone aside and live life outside of technology. It is important to keep in contact with family that may be strewn across the country, and this is often feasible and easy through social media. It is quite possible that a healthy balance is all that is needed to ensure that social media becomes a healthy and helpful part of America’s culture, rather than something that consumes it.
The bottom line is social media will be a very active part of peoples’ lives for a very long time. Living life outside of a smart phone is important for many reasons, just as utilizing social media efficiently is extremely useful for many of life’s obstacles. Social media will continue to be a part of a progressive society. It is up to the world to use it effectively, rather than become a slave to it.
By Courtney Heitter