Last week, I spent an enjoyable week catching up with friends having brunches, lunches, tea times and dinners. But I’ve noticed that a nasty habit on my part has emerged.
My phone sat on the table next to me for the duration of every meal and drinks session, within easy reach for access to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
It is well-known that we are in the midst of a social media revolution. There is now a demand for information right here right now, which is dominating shifts in social behaviour.
But the problem I now realise is that communicating with people via these sites and apps is replacing communicating with them face to face. And what’s worse is that it happens when there are friends sitting right in front of me.
For example, take the dinner I had with my two good friends I went through uni with. All three of our phones sat on the table, making it even more cluttered and requiring Tetris-like skills to fit our tapas plates.
While we could say they are there for ‘emergencies’, let’s be honest. If there was an emergency, it would likely come in the form of a phone call and I would hear the phone ring, or at least vibrate in my bag. Someone ‘liking’ or commenting on my status or photo is not an emergency.
I constantly slide across that unlock button, simply tap my fingers and my social media world is seconds away. Ooo that person just tweeted, ooo I like that photo, oh haha what a funny status.
Not only is it incredibly rude, it seems simply stupid to me on reflection. These are my friends and they undoubtedly understand and perform similar actions themselves. But why do I care what my Facebook ‘friends’ and those I follow on Twitter are doing or think when those I treasure most are sitting in front of me? I haven’t seen or spoken to most of my Facebook ‘friends’ face to face in years and have never met and will never meet 95% of those I follow on Twitter.
Half way through the night one of my girlfriend’s work mates, who the other two of us had never met before, swung by for a drink. We all made conversation to get to know each other, but once we had reached the point where the questions and anecdotes were exhausted, that nasty habit reared its ugly head again.
The work mates start talking about work gossip and the activities of their mutual friends, so we tapped on our phones to see what was new in cyberspace.
The main problem is that it has now become social norm to communicate via wall posts, private messages and tweets. Events are organised on Facebook, photos are shared on Instagram, and tweets and status updates are used to convey our thoughts.
I look at my recent calls list and it is sparse. There are calls from work, and mum. I used to spend hours on the phone TALKING to my friends, yet now we are reduced to electronic communication.
What’s even more terrifying is that it is not only on the friend front that this habit has emerged. On the rare occasions where all my family are at home on the same night, we don’t actually seem to spend that much time talking to each other. Rather, we are glued to our own forms of electronic entertainment.
Dad is following the live Formula One updates on his phone; mum is playing Angry Birds; my brother is on Facebook; and I’m constantly refreshing all my news feeds or writing about how we all keep doing this.
Even though it is the cause for problems such as these, social media does have its advantages. While overseas I was able to shares photos, post updates and let mum and dad know, ‘don’t worry, I’m safe’ without enduring an exorbitant phone bill when I returned.
So yes, social media isn’t all that bad. But I have definitely identified issues with my behaviour because of it. I’m laying it all on the line here and admitting I have a problem, as that is the first step to recovery right? Hi, my name is Samantha and I’m addicted to social media.
So what’s the answer? Do I delete and deactivate everything, and rely on my friends and the news media to inform me about what’s going on in my world. Whoa that’s a big step.
Rather than quit cold turkey, I’m going to quit doing it on-the go. No longer will I use my phone for social media, but instead I will use it as a good old-fashioned phone, calling and text messaging only. Social media will have to wait until I have finished spending time face to face with those I love.