Father forgive me for I am about to rant.
Social media has ruined social scenes. The organic, fluid, dynamic nature of socializing has been replaced with transactional interactions over a sleek UI.
Don’t feel like going out tonight? That’s okay, you can just stalk everyone else’s Snapchat to see what happened and talk about it the next morning like you were there. Oh, and no need to catch up over coffee or a beer these days, you can always just see what people are doing with their lives on Facebook. If you are REALLY close to them, text them. The best part is, you can do it all from the comfort of your own home, without ever actually seeing another human being.
That wouldn’t fly as recently as ten years ago. You would be marooned on an island of loneliness as your life passed you by. To be honest, I wish it didn’t fly now.
To be part of what’s happening, make new friends, connect with old friends, or be on the dating scene you had to actually show up. People would meet in public places to talk about what to do then go do it, or plan on a place to meet ahead of time and if you miss it you miss out. The way social interaction used to work is why we have the saying, “be there or be square”. Sure, you could catch up over the phone, but unlike social media’s ability to be ever-present in each other’s lives through snapping, chatting, pinning, insta-ing, and all the other cheesy catch-phrases that these companies invent, you used to actually have to be there to experience what life has to offer. It was genuine, and real, and so much more fun!
The prevalence of social media and proliferation of mobile communication technology has all but killed the social “scene”. It is far too easy for people to flake out and flit around from event to event. They can get intel ahead of time on the “happenings” of the night, change plans on a dime, and pick and choose from a plethora of events being funneled into them from various contacts or promoted to them by conglomerates that curate their newsfeed. Think about why this sucks so much. Someone can Yelp a restaurant to take their date they met on Tinder, check BandsInTown for a place to catch a show, then watch their friends Snapchat feeds to see which house party to (probably not) go to, before Ubering home in a cab and posting it all on Facebook. Sounds like the future to you? Sounds like a dystopian future to me.
Whatever happened to word-of-mouth? Like, actual words, coming out of someone’s mouth. The last time you were invited to a big event was it in person, over text, or on a Facebook event page? The last time you went out to eat did you call a friend for a recommendation or ask Google? Do you get into healthy debates with friends or Wiki the answer the second you disagree on something? Do you ask what your friends are listening to or does Spotify pick your daily and weekly routines for you? You get the drift.
Let’s take the dating scene for example – how many of you have experienced your crush come to you in person and bashfully, adorably ask if they can take you out on a date? How many of you have been the one approaching that special someone with a whole lot of courage and a secret prayer in your heart? I sincerely hope the answer is all of you because I want that for you, but I am sure that many people reading this will look back on some of their first dates and realize they got there through an app or a text message.
“What’s so wrong with that? Tinder saved my Freshman year! You are so outdated!”
Maybe I am, but I believe that nothing in this life is more important for the social creatures that we are than being in each others presence for those significant moments in our lives. No one should experience these things alone with a screen. They are the types of experiences that build character, memories, and bonds. I silently despair for generations that will not experience these small but profound moments of tenderness and vulnerability that personal interactions bring to bear and technology eliminates.
Due to these new norms, it seems to me that many people are afraid to be genuine with each other. I see it every day on city streets, on the bus, or even in the classroom. I am sure I am not the only one who has observed people with the want to look into another person’s eyes and say something daring but without the courage to do so. I believe it has fundamentally changed social behavioral norms to the point where interaction in the flesh is more taboo than interacting via the web. We have been conditioned to be apprehensive and skittish about things like commenting on an actual conversation we overhear, striking up conversations with strangers, or cracking a joke to someone you’ve just met. Yet behind the veil of social media personas people will bare their very souls to millions of lurkers whom they will never meet. Why is this? Are we trading the ability of mass communication for the capability of genuine communication?
Massive grassroots happenings like the flower child and hippie movement of the 60’s, disco in the 70’s (well, maybe not ALL things should come back) or the alternative, grunge and underground metal scenes of the 90’s may not be achievable with the advent of social media. These scenes only existed because people showed up, got involved, and connected on a level that transcended the surficial interactions we suffer on a daily basis. What’s more, the ever-watchful eye of big brother is constantly being waved around via your camera at every single social event that happens today. Many people engage with things like rallies and concerts through their smartphone’s camera lens more than through their own two eyes. Yes, I am the guy that will throw something at you if you spend the entire concert with Snapchat held up over your head so that everyone behind you gets blinded by your screen while you don’t even attempt to connect with the artist bearing their heart and soul to a crowded room full of strangers. After the third photo/video vanity is the only thing you’re capturing on that screen. We all know where those photos go afterward! Either onto the public ledger of social interactions via Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat so you can say look-at-me or cast deep into the abyss of useless data that is cloud-stored photographs. If you are one of the people that actually goes back and looks at much less cleans our your old photos, you are a unicorn. Good for you, seriously.
I understand many of you would think that this view is pessimistic, and I would agree with that because it is. Perhaps you are comfortable with how things are, or maybe you’re just hitting 21 and the world is blossoming before you at your fingertips as text, chat, and every other app works together to bring your social life to you. But I’d trade every social media platform in existence today, and all of their professed benefits, for a culture that not only seeks to see eye-to-eye, but actually does it too.