The availability of instant communication is, in many ways, a wonderful thing. You are able to know instantly if your friend is running late for lunch, or find out in a matter of seconds what your calculus homework is for the day. Despite this, the ability to instantly say anything to anybody at any time has truly watered down the significance of the conversations and relationships that we have.
The measure of a friendship’s strength has too often turned into a question of how often you text, how many pictures you have together on social media, if you’re Snapchat “best friends,” and if they “like” every photo you post on Instagram. But despite the usefulness of our cellphones and the perks that come with them, we are letting the often-superficial world inside our phones eat away at the real world outside of them.
Our ability to have conversations from afar through texting and social media is taking away our tangible communication skills when we’re face-to-face. Cell phones are no longer merely a device that we use to facilitate our social lives; they have practically become our social lives. People will often joke, “If you didn’t post about it on Instagram/Snapchat, did it even happen?” Today, for many people, an event truly might as well not have happened if they didn’t post something about it on one or more of their social media accounts.
None of this would really be a problem, though, if it were not for the way that the effects have seeped into our personal relationships. The next time you’re at lunch with your friends, pay attention to the number of times that conversation lulls because someone, or perhaps all of you, are checking your phones. Notice what happens when a conversation topic is exhausted. Instead of quickly jumping to the next topic, we tend to glance down at our phones and check Twitter or Instagram rather than sit through a moment or two of silence before the next wave of conversation begins.
We also let superficial criteria control our perceptions of our romantic life. The frequency of texts that we receive from our crush, number of snapchats and timeliness in replies are all factors that we tend to completely overanalyze when we are “interested” in someone. These insubstantial measures have become enough to equate “talking,” while the real experiences that should be defining your relationship are almost completely being left out of the picture.
This is not to say that social media and texting are necessarily bad things. Since moving away from most of my old friends, I value these things far more than I used to so that I am able to keep up with my friends’ lives. However, I think that there is a lot to be said for turning off your phone at dinner, for putting your phone away when you’re with friends and for spending more time “off the grid.”
So be a part of the solution. Make an effort not to be the one glued to your phone all night. Work to keep conversation going so that others aren’t tempted to get on their phones. I challenge you to spend one full night out without looking at your phone at all. You’ll be surprised how much greater the quality of your time will be when you devote all of your attention to here and now.