Spectators or Participants?

Image Courtesy: Google Images

Image Courtesy: Google Images

By Felicia Oblea

There’s no denying the Information Technology Revolution has changed the way we live. The Internet has brought us Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and other “social networking” applications that claim to help keep us connected with the ones we love and the world around us – but in what sense? Sure, we may know what’s going on out there, but how many of us have turned into spectators instead of participants due to the preoccupation of “staying in the loop?”

It could be argued that technology and the Internet is one of the biggest normative history-graded influences of our generation. Larry D. Rosen, PhD, claims, “Young kids look at technology the way I look at air… It’s not just a tool to them, they sleep with it, they wake up with it, and it’s part of their world.”

Rosen’s study on the relationship between the study habits of middle and high school kids in association with how often they checked their phone/Facebook during that study time, shows these distractions caused students to get worse grades than those that stuck to their schoolwork until finished. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. People have become so interested in what others are doing that they seem to have a hard time completing their own tasks and living their own lives.

Are people more comfortable interacting with a screen than with other people? What affect might this have on their socioemotional development? Next time you’re out and about, take a look around. What do you see? So many people have their eyes glued to their phone that they’re missing the people, the sights, the sounds, and the potential social interaction all around them. They’re being what this generation likes to call “social,” but to the outside world (at least the ones that aren’t glued to their own phone long enough to notice) they’re looking pretty antisocial. High school and college is where people develop interpersonal skills for the job force, but these days more and more people seem to be just fine in their own little bubble.

Going further, in the article “Facebook Makes Us Sadder and Less Satisfied, Study Finds,” researchers tested the influence Facebook had on the happiness of the participants and found that, overall, Facebook “led to declines in moment-to-moment happiness and overall life satisfaction.” However, that same study showed that when people felt lonely, they would turn to Facebook anyway.

People are becoming addicted to comparison. It’s easy to become unhappy with your own life when you see how exciting everyone else’s life is. Are they forgetting that people only present their best?

It turns out there is a solution to these empty, lonely feelings we sometimes get from Social Media – it’s called human interaction. Direct interaction with other people actually makes a person feel better. We are made for real community, and face-to-face interaction. It’s a beautiful thing.

“People so often whip out their cameras – almost mindlessly – to capture a moment, to the point that they are missing what is happening right in front of them,” said Linda Henkel of Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Instagram, SnapChat and other photo sharing apps are gaining ground in Social Media. Are we so desperate to show the world what we’re doing (or eating), that once we get the perfect picture to share we stop normal participation in order to prove to the world that we live exciting lives (not to mention letting our food get cold!)?

Please, let’s think about this. Are we becoming so involved in the World Wide Web that we are missing out on what’s happening in our own community? Although there are many benefits to Social Media, let’s not forget to stop and smell the roses once in a while.