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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

An unsocial media

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(4/2016) In our world, it seems as though you cannot hold a proper conversation with a person without the rest of the world being present. What I mean is that you see families or couples out to dinner and every single one of them is face down in their little handheld worlds, looking in on other people's lives instead on focusing on the world around them.

I have a perfect example of this. It was a Sunday morning at a local breakfast hot spot where my family sat discussing anything and everything. My father gestured to something behind me and said, "That looks like a Norman Rockwell painting." I turned my head and found myself agreeing with him. Two elderly gentlemen, sat across each other next to a window and bathed in a pool of sunlight. One of them was holding a newspaper out and seemed to be discussing the day's events with his companion. Several feet away sat two men about twenty years old. Like the old men, they say across each other, however they were basking in the bluish light of their phones. Their heads remained bowed and they did not exchange one word to each other and I believe their eyes did not glance up once from those little rectangles of light in their hands.

The contrast of these two images is alarming. You have one articulate, engaging, and full of the old-fashioned face-to-face conversation that values the exchange of ideas. The second features a sense of the cold disconnect some of the most recent generation struggle with in a technologically-focused culture. We meet in person, with dear friends, but spend the time looking at the 400 or so friendly strangers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

What is most appealing about social media, I think, is the fact that we can edit ourselves. We can put forth a profile that shows us as witty, fun, people who always have good hair days and not even one blemish. I know I do it all the time. My particular poison is Instagram. Every time I post a picture I look at it for a few minutes to think if I want people to see this, then I spend a few more minutes thinking of a witty caption that makes me seem intelligent and humorous. I know that in reality I am not half as clever as my little profile would make one believe. Social media gives us the ability to put a filter on all the unsavory screw-ups that make up our lives and show the world temporized versions of ourselves that we create.

Today we have an advantage of having so much information at our fingertips. However, the downside of this is that we are bombarded constantly by unreliable information that is coupled with an unwillingness to investigate further. One of the biggest faults I have is I often just read headlines and never bother to read the rest of the news story. I do not believe I am alone in this. It is easier to read the few words and think you have the "gist" of the following article, believe what argument the author will make and what position you will hold by the end of it. So, you skip ahead to the next headline and make a similar judgment. This is dangerous; we are turning into a society that is swayed by a few words and never bothers with the whole of the story.

Forgive me if all of this makes me sound like a pessimistic, crotchety, old person, but young people today, their phones, and social media addictions drive me up the wall. It surprises me how many people I see on their phone, doing heaven knows what to pass the time. While I admit to have fallen into this habit, I try to refrain from tapping away when conversing with someone or having dinner with my family; a courtesy that not many people consider.

What is ironic is that social media is rather unsocial. Sure, we can check in on friends and family far away from us, but most times, we use it to talk to people near to us to keep them both close and at armís length. We have discovered a way to cut out the need for actual human contact.

I would be lying, of course, if I claimed that I am never on my phone or social media. On the contrary, I find that I have at times fallen into the rabbit hole of the Internet. It is so easy to, currently because every answer is a few clicks away and the desire to be distracted seems to take the first place on our list of priorities. I see a growing generation with the longing to form connections with someone, anyone they feel can relate to them. What is truly unfortunate is that instead of seeking companionship with those around us, we try to find it in the throngs of strangers on the Internet. We share more with them then we do our closest friends and change is needed. Let us endeavor to put down our phones and face each other. Let us go, then, you and I and face the world around us instead of looking at it vicariously through our phones. Let us begin to live, not for the many followers, but for ourselves.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir