Every day when I walk through campus, there’s at least one person who nearly bumps into me on the sidewalk because they’re looking down at their phone. And it pisses me off.
But I’m not mad at the person who ran into me. I couldn’t possibly be; I’m often guilty of the same thing.
That’s exactly what I’m mad about. We are all mesmerized by the content radiating from our devices, and I don’t think we’re as scared of this as we should be.
I made an Instagram account in middle school and a Twitter account in high school. I posted an average amount of content, from memes to pictures with friends to the occasional artsy photograph. “Likes” made me feel like I was doing something right, and comments made me feel like I had a lot of friends.
But toward the end of high school and in my freshman year of college, I realized that I actually hated the idea of social media and that it goes directly against the thing I love most about living: interacting with other human beings in real time with real emotions, real facial expressions and real awkward pauses.
It’s often that I try to talk to a friend and they say, “Go ahead, I’m listening,” while their eyes are glued to the phone in their hand. They clearly aren’t tuned in to our conversation, but I know I’ve probably done the same thing to them. We’re all guilty of making people feel like meaningless words or pictures on a tiny screen are more important than them, and it saddens me to think that that’s somehow acceptable in our society.
When I’m in the Student Center, I see tables of students on their phones. They’re sitting together, but they’re completely disconnected. It makes me wish I grew up during a time when people had no choice but to interact. They couldn’t default to their pocket electronics.
I got rid of my Twitter account by the time I graduated high school, and I stopped using Instagram several months ago. But it wasn’t because I stopped looking at people’s faces or because I started running into people on the sidewalk.
I deleted my social media because I forgot what it was like to be bored. Every time I didn’t have homework to do or anyone to hangout with, I’d pick up my phone and aimlessly scroll through Instagram searching for entertainment — something to fill the momentary void. All I’d find were pictures posted by people I’ve barely talked to or cared about. I’d see highly edited photos of the meals they ate that day and the vacations they wish they could return to.
This wasn’t only happening when I had nothing to do, it was whenever I was coming close to an unfulfilled moment: lulls in conversations with friends, waiting for the subway to come, an uneventful walk to class. Instead of being bored and appreciating the silence or looking around at the trees or my peers, I sought to fill my brain with vapid content from Instagram and Twitter.
Why should I care about what a girl from my eighth-grade math class ate for lunch?
I felt more connected with myself after I deleted my social media accounts. I started to appreciate boredom. But there’s still this overall disconnect with my surroundings. I can change my own ways but I can’t change the nature of our society.
Technology continues to advance with absolutely no signs of slowing down, and that’s what terrifies me most. There’s no way to go back to the times when people looked each other in the eye or sat idly in a waiting room without smartphones in their hands.
I’m aware I sound like your grandma who still has a flip phone, and I’m not saying that technology isn’t amazing. I know that social media has revolutionized the way we communicate, and there’s definitely a place for it in our society.
I’m sure I’ll redownload Instagram in the future, and maybe I’ll have to get a Twitter account for a future job. I just wish our phones wouldn’t make us so out of touch with what actually surrounds us. And I wish we’d stop bumping into each other on the way to class.