How many times have you been in a large crowd of people and turned to your smart phone as a refuge from a real life social experience? Perhaps it’s because I’m eternally introverted that I’ve noticed my natural tendency to look inward for an escape route from forced interaction has started creeping up in every person with a smart phone. As new media is created for us to enjoy a “social” experience (whatever the latest app or website happens to be for that day), we are becoming more isolated from reality and relationships than ever before.
I’m not totally against online social experiences; I’m actually an active participant. They’ve brought my long distance social circle closer to me and my introverted self is able to network with individuals I never imagined I’d interface with. For that reason, the technologies created to minimize distances, share life experiences and develop new relationships have been a blessing to my life. At the same time there’s always a sense that I am more alone and introverted than ever before. I feel cursed by the solitude. I’m always alone mentally and sometimes physically when I’m stalking my feeds. Taking one’s self out of a real-life moment and diving into the online world of “building” relationships is a solitary act.
I know you’ve done this too. You sit in the same room with a family member or friend and one or both of you is on your smart phone checking out the latest posts on Facebook. Instead of creating memorable moments, you are ironically enveloped in the post worthy moment of someone else's life, memorable or not. And if it happens to be the latter, you’ve probably internally berated them for posting some minuscule detail of their life that you never wanted to know.
Every person with a technology driven life has at one point been so engrossed in a social application that they’ve been “checked out” of reality, letting life pass them by. Technology brings us closer together when long distance separates us, but when our physical separation is minimal I firmly believe that technology and social apps drive more space between us.
My case in multiple points: Work, Play & Food.
Work - Having an entire conversation via emails with a person in your office, both of you isolated in separate spaces with headphones drowning out the sounds of real life verbal conversation.
Play - Playing “Words with Friends” with your spouse while sitting in the same room together. Without speaking, you finish an entire game while your high end Scrabble board game is tucked away in the cabinet beside you.
Food - My personal favorite; snapping a picture of a meal you are enjoying with friends and immediately posting to a social profile to document the amazing time you are sharing and…squirrel…another friend just posted a picture of a squirrel on their feed! Not important, not even interesting really but a quick open of Pandora’s Box and you’ve learned about new babies, bad karma and why do all my friend’s suddenly love giraffes so much? You’ve forgotten about the real-life experience you were supposed to be living just moments ago and you’ve now isolated yourself further away from the living breathing person sitting just a mere three feet away.
For all of these activities, technology has provided us amazing benefits to better our lives and fulfill our social nature as human beings. Let’s not allow these new tools, created to bring us together, to drive us further apart.