We are all accustomed to the constant buzzing of notifications that serves as the soundtrack of our everyday lives. Your phone vibrates, you hear a ding, and a banner appears across your screen, informing you that you’ve been tagged in a meme, or that you’ve gained a new Instagram follower, or that your crush has sent you a Snapchat, or that your brother messaged a family GroupMe.
Regardless of what we’re doing— whether it be writing a paper, or having a conversation— we tend to stop and follow through with each notification. This initial distraction typically leads us on an adventure through the bottomless realm of Social Media until we are awakened from our daze and continue with our day until the next disruption—which, let’s be real, is just a moment away.
Social media has given us communication, creativity, and collaboration, but it has also given us impatience, FOMO (the fear of missing out), and a source of endless entertainment, ultimately decreasing our productivity. Even if your own phone is on “silent,” odds are that someone else’s is vibrating or beeping during your lecture, lunch, or midday stroll through the park. We’ve grown so accustomed to this endless background noise that we regard it as normal. Everyone is always expected to be on their phones.
We are frequently isolated by our technology, which forms a screen of separation between the individual and the outside world. We sit alone with our devices, scrolling through status updates, imagery, and video. We text GIFs to old friends because it’s much easier than introducing ourselves to a stranger or sitting with someone new. Think about how many conversations you could have had, people you would have met if you were forced to put away your phone and suffer through the twenty seconds of awkwardness needed to simply say “hey.”
Humans stand out in the animal kingdom as social creatures; there are many scientists looking into the developmental repercussions that result from the unnatural isolation ironically engendered by technology. Unsurprisingly, direct links between stress, sleep disorders, and depression have been found with increased use of technology.
It is far too easy to become immersed in the mysteriously deep lands of Facebook, or the endless mazes of Instagram, but it is vital that we remember the benefits of multigenerational conversation, literature, theater, art, and history, rather than simply becoming enslaved by technology. When’s the last time you read a book? Attended a performance? Went to a concert? Wrote a story? Visited your grandparents? Explored a new friendship IRL?
We should all be wary of the challenge we face in continuing the aggressive advance of technology while maintaining a foundation in culture and human interaction. We should work to disconnect from cyberspace every once in a while, learn to ignore, or shut off, the soundtrack of social media. Let’s balance our engagement behind the screen with our engagement in the real world for the betterment of ourselves and society.