NEW YORK - The rise of smartphones and the subsequent embracing of social media has gone a long way to changing how we as a society communicate with one another, and those changes, while positive in many ways, also come with a equal number of negative factors that are having a detrimental effect on our collective social wellness, according to experts.
Nowadays, people are communicating more than ever through social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a whole host of others. While this is a great thing in terms of staying in touch with people that you might ordinarily not be able to, experts are saying that in many ways, smartphones and social media have resulted in people having less connection with one another than ever before in many ways.
Previously, people would get together and have meaningful conversations where tone of voice, body language, and spontaneous replies would provide a truly cohesive and connecting experience between two or more people. Fast-forward to today, and social media apps have reduced that act to mere surface-level conversing, greatly reducing the quality of conversation overall. Things like empathy and establishing a connection tend to fall by the wayside when you're merely typing in a quick sentence on social media, clicking submit, and then forgetting about it until you eventually receive a notification of a reply.
In fact, it's this style of communication that has created a rampant sense of narcissism among social media users, who primarily use the apps to inform people about themselves and their daily happenings as opposed to being concerned with the affairs of others. This factor has been described by experts as someone essentially shouting “look at me! Look at me!” over and over into a void. It’s this type of behavior that has proven that, while social media does have its distinct benefits, overall social wellness is being compromised and undermined as a result.
Experts have noted that this can be especially detrimental for college and university students, who should be taking advantage of being on a large and diverse campus by establishing relationships and learning from people from different walks of life. Instead, reports say, individuals note that social media use usually leads to fewer interactions and an overall less enriching experience. In addition, losing the face-to-face aspect of conversing with someone has been found to greatly reduce interpersonal skills that are vitally needed when a student graduates from college and goes on into the workforce, where they will have no choice then but to have to deal with people directly.
Of course, smartphones can even get in the way when you are engaging with someone face-to-face. Studies have shown that when lulls in the conversation occur, instead of finding something new to talk about or simply feeling comfortable enough with the company you're in to not mind an occasional bout of silence, many people will pull out their phones instead as a source of distraction or as an artificial means of engagement.
After all, in today's world of digital instant gratification – where information, videos, and entertainment are merely a button press away at all times – any dip in a conversation might make today's attention deficit disorder-afflicted population uncomfortable. However, people would benefit to leave the cell phones behind when meeting up with friends, and using any lull in the conversation to think, reflect, and then return to the conversation with intention and a renewed and different perspective, resulting in a stronger connection with the people you are with.
Reports also indicate that more and more people are feeling depressed and anxious nowadays, and a lot of experts attribute that to the rise and increase in cell phone use. Yes, you may have a lot of followers on Instagram and have a lot of back and forth, one-sentence conversations with these people, but ultimately, deep down, these people know that these are merely superficial relationships and at the end of the day, these relationships are not fueling ones innate desire to belong and have true connections. Putting the cell phone aside here and there and engaging in real world, face-to-face activity with others would not only strengthen the bonds between friends, but also enhance these relationships – and your own personal sense of self-worth – in a more meaningful way.
Smartphones and social media are here to stay, and when used within the correct context in one's life, they can certainly be informative and enriching experiences. However, as a society, we need to learn to be more selective regarding how and when we use them, and more importantly, when NOT to use them. After all, no experience on your cell phone is going to compare to having its real-life equivalent with somebody who you truly have a strong and distinct connection with, will it?