By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
I don’t know about you, but when I’m away from a computer, I get an itch to check the latest posts on Facebook or Twitter. Apparently, I’m not the only one either. According to a report from Nielsen – a company that looks for trends around the world – people in the United States spent a total of 121 billion minutes on social media last year. Yikes. What is happening to us in all that time?
It’s hard to argue against the fact that things like Twitter, which barely let you use 160 letters for a post, are encouraging all kinds of improper English. You start getting used to typing things like “lol” and “omg” to express yourself. That might seem harmless and all, that you can just turn it off when it’s time to write an English essay, but old habits die hard. We all want to fit in, and when your buddies are using slang, cutting off the ends of words, and blabbing about their barely understandable feelings with blurts and bleeps on Facebook, it gets inside of you. We affect each other way more than we’d like to think. I’ll tell you something else too, adults are going to have a difficult time taking you seriously, which might be cool now, but not so cool when you’re trying to get a job years from now!
Okay, so maybe you don’t care all that much about proper English, but what I’m sure everyone cares about is enjoying the company of friends and family. Well, that’s a bit hard to do when, in the middle a conversation with a real human being, people are checking their phones. Sometimes, friends will literally be sitting next to each other, and staring into that swirling pool of glass on their smartphone screen, mesmerized by distant images and words. It’s not as if the latest text message is going to melt away. It’s not as if people need to constantly know who you’re hanging out with via pictures and status updates. So, why do we have that tugging pressure to be connected, in ways that so often disconnect us to the warm body right in front of us? Why do we chase the approval of people we’ve barely seen more than a handful of times in a year, or sometimes that we haven’t seen in many years?
Alright, so let’s suppose you’re an English expert and you know how to turn off your phone when hanging out with real human beings. Unfortunately, you’ll still have to get over all of the emotional and psychological impact that social media leaves behind on your personality. There’s such an emphasis in social media to get noticed, either with inappropriate pictures or dramatic status updates, that people start behaving a little crazy. If you notice your friend’s picture gets 87 likes because they’re doing something dangerous or shallow, while your more down-to-earth photo only gets a handful of likes, guess what? That kind of hurts. So you start thinking, well maybe if I do what the 87 likes person is doing, I’ll get more attention. And guess what? You’re right, you will! Then this starts a vicious cycle of doing, saying, and being things that deep down inside, we know we’re really not.
Now, obviously social media is not all bad. It is a good way to keep in touch with people you’d normally forget about. However, when people are so pressured by the high speed, rapid fire assault of pictures, words, and feelings from their friends, it’s tough to slow down… smell the roses… and really, I mean really think about life. Honestly, I bet 95% of your “friends” are just people you once went to school with, met a few times at a party, or even worse… someone from your past who you think you know (after all, you’ve seen them “living life” on social media), only to find out they’ve changed and are now bad news. The past is hard to get over with social media, especially when everything you say, post, or take a picture of is almost permanent. In fact, half the time people don’t even bother going out to meet new faces, because they’re stuck in the old list of friends that have been on their social media for years! Kind of hard to meet cooler, more interesting folks, when it might involve… gasp… leaving the house and shaking someone’s hand.
I’m not saying we need to totally unplug, but we should at least be very selective in the time we spend on social media, and the importance we give to people we’ve barely seen in months.