Picture this: it's 11:00 AM on a Monday morning, and I'm walking across campus. There are people everywhere, hurrying to and from class. But there is silence. I look up from my phone to see everyone looking down at theirs. I put it in my pocket and continue to walk onward. In old movies, college campuses are bustling with activity, frat boys yelling, girls chatting, teachers greeting students as they pass by. I keep my phone in my pocket all the way to my dorm, still somewhat put off from all the silence.
I am halfway through my daily Ted Talk binge (I try to watch at least two a day) when I come across this video, where the talented and passionate Sherry Turkle speaks about technology and social media in our daily life and how all of it is impacting our connections with other humans. Ah, another video telling us our phones are evil! Let's see it. I clicked on the link out of curiosity. I didn't know that I'd watch her speak without blinking for basically twenty minutes. I didn't know that what she was speaking about, though a bit dated (the talk was from 2012), would hit me so hard.
She proclaims that "our little devices...those little devices in our pockets... are so psychologically powerful, that they don't only change what we do, they change who we are."
And I thought, "Oh my god, she's right."
I can't think of the last time I hung out with friends without people pulling out those rectangular metal hunks of computer chips, to take selfies or text others. I can't think of the last time I, myself, was completely present.
I realized that shortly after meeting someone, after establishing names and where we're from, we exchange numbers and social media platforms. We meet up for lunch, or go out at night, and when the conversation dulls (if one even exists), we dive into our phones, our multiple lives, our online personalities, our seemingly 24/7 connections.
I realized that so many would rather text than have a phone conversation.
I realized that people think you're weird if you try to look at them directly for too long.
I realized that the "reach into pocket to pull out phone" is a reflex common amongst people my age, a coping mechanism for "awkward" situations or the moment we feel alone.
I realized that everyone is striving to be heard on social media, posting stories and pictures of their lives as if to say "I'm here! Look at this!"
I realized that this desire to be heard translates to pressure for perfection, self-censoring, and creating the illusion of a competent image.
I realized that it's so easy to fall into it all.
I realized that I fell into it again, and I wanted to get out.
I thought about the time I deleted all the social media apps off my phone (for a number of reasons), and how liberating it felt. How I didn't feel tempted to prove my life to anybody, how I didn't feel obligated to look at everyone else's highlight reels and feel dissatisfied with my own. I thought about how deep connections between people nowadays seem to be few and far between, how everybody, consciously or subconsciously, seems to crave those connections but instead replaces them with an artificial web of them, based off of likes and retweets and followers. I thought about how lonely we've made ourselves, as a result of a synthetic isolation which stems from focusing our attention on a screen instead of the world around us, or staying in bed to "catch up" on everything happening inside that little hunk of metal instead of getting out of bed and experiencing it first-hand.
So I decided to dig myself out again.
I re-deleted every tempting platform off of my phone (that I don't use for work) because I don't want to like your photos.
I don't want to follow you.
I don't want to retweet your posts.
I want to sit down with you face to face and talk about yourself, your fears, your hopes, your favorite movies, your crazy ideas to go camping on cliffs, your deep love of dogs and caramel coffee, your inspirations and your aspirations.
I want to slide that hunk of metal across the floor of the room under my dusty dresser and feel the pressures for perfection and censorship disappear.
I do not want to like your pictures.
I want to like you.