I feel like social media is messing everything up. I’ll explain.
I know that I have no idea how life as a young person before social media took over actually was, and that pretty much anything I say is probably an idealization, at best a guess, but I just can’t really see how it couldn’t be at least a little bit true.
I feel like there used to be a general sense of urgency that simply doesn’t exist anymore. Social media has given us the opportunity to communicate with other people at literally any given point in time as long as we’re awake (sometimes even that’s an uncertain restriction – sleep texting? whack). At literally any point in our waking hours we can reach out to whomever we want, providing they share the same basic technology (which is descriptive of everyone in my realm of experience). This is convenient to be sure, but it’s ruining what it means to be a human being. There’s no pressure to act immediately when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Why would I tell that guy I like him right now, at 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday, when I could tell him on New Years Eve, or next year when I’m older, in a minute or in a decade? When two people run into each other by happenstance in the grocery store, there aren’t pent up words to be spoken like I’m imagining there would have been in certain situations pre-social media. There is no limit to what we can say and when we can say it. We have no limits to communication. By the same logic that states you have to experience bad to know good, the argument can be made that this limitlessness is going to rid us of what is special about engaging in social interaction, what is special about each other. If we never know an inability to communicate with other people, why does the ability to do so strike us as anything but monotony? It seems obvious that any rational being can discern a difference between texting and face-to-face conversation, but will that always be obvious? When you’ve spent the words on a screen and you then meet face-to-face, what happens? I know your middle name, your favorite song, and whatever other introductory facts people share when getting to know one another, but what fills in the gap those questions would have filled in face-to-face conversation? I know you better than I know a perfect stranger, but you are a perfect stranger. What I don’t know is what your lips do when you get embarrassed. I don’t know what you look like driving down the road listening to your dad’s favorite song. I don’t know how your body shifts when there’s a commercial break, or what your go-to hand gesture is when you’re shocked. There’s something tragic about that to me. We fill the template of the person we have in front of us with Instagram filters and Facebook shares. I can talk to you constantly, but I can’t talk to you at all. There is no socially acceptable way for either of us to further the relationship, to ever really push forward so long as there exists this rift. I can say whatever I want to you whenever I want to, so why say anything at all?
My generation is characterized by a certain kind of inaction, and I think social media is the root of it. The kind of inaction I’m talking about is primarily romantic. There are countless poorly written Odyssey articles on the hardships of trying to find someone in this cultural environment. My problem, however, does not stem from a desire to find someone. My problem is what to do when you’ve found someone. Someone who is calculated, who is guarded, who carefully measures the extent to which either of us is willing to go to “get to know” each other (even though I’ve just established that we aren’t really getting to know each other at all). Girls complain constantly about guys not taking the bull by the horns, by guys ignoring them, by guys simply refusing to initiate the chase. I feel like this has to be because of the backdrop I’ve just described. There is no urgency here.
THIS IS ABOUT TO BE REALLY SEXIST SOUNDING. Another issue I perceive is that social media exacerbates what is different about guys and girls temperamentally. In my experience, guys are typically more present-minded, less concerned with the details of everyday existence. Girls, again in my experience, are thorough analysts of what is going on around them. They also crave more, or at least a different kind of, attention. You can see how these differences could lead to a pretty tumultuous relationship between the two. When each is given a device that allows for constant communication and self-promotion in the most basic sense, one is clearly going to act in a way much different from the other. From what I’ve seen, it completely reverses the Laura-Ingalls-Wilder suitor and lady relationship, the bird-of-paradise pageantry that has characterized so much of human history. Today, it’s not the man that spreads his plumage in an array of vibrant colors. It’s today’s girl that is doing the courting. Our courting rituals are lorded over by Facetune and Snapchat. We, the hens, are given tools to make ourselves look as good as possible on a screen tucked in the palm of some viable mate. We paint our brown feathers gold and beg to be noticed as anything out of the ordinary. It’s really weird honestly. How I’m describing it is even weirder. Whatever. The point is, social media is making girls (especially me, apparently) go insane. If you spent an hour a day meticulously editing a picture of yourself so as to maximize your sex appeal in hopes that some nineteen-year-old guy will have a 54% higher chance of snapchatting you that day, you would understand.
I understand that this is pretty dismal sounding, and I also understand that I don’t even hold this hopeless of a view on social media a lot of the time. It’s just on my mind a lot recently.