In my second year of junior high school, classmates began to reveal their small flip cell phones during class time, writing text messages to each other or playing a number of useless games found on those old devices. I soon persuaded my own parents to buy me a cellphone for Christmas so that I could join the ranks of kids too young to need mobile connectivity who had it anyways. From these ranks, I learned to make use of the cell phone games, the camera feature and the ability to text my classmates during class instead of sending hand-written notes. At the time, I thought this was a brilliant technological innovation and an absolutely necessary part of my life. That same year, I used all my saved up Christmas and birthday money to buy a laptop and the central purpose of this laptop was to be able to be logged on to MSN Messenger every minute of every day. If you are in my generation, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that MSN quickly became the centre of my social experience. Having pointless conversations with “friends” I never spoke to in real life, asking “sup?” and posting meaningless phrases or song quotes in my status bar to try to define myself. Now that we have all grown up, it’s easy to tell those people our age who, by choice or by parental coercion, took part in extracurricular activities that forced them to socialize. These are the ones with actual social skills, beyond what is needed to interact with a computer.
By 2006, when I left my public school classmates and transitioned to a private school, my little flip phone quickly became outdated as my new peers from upper-class families all began sporting early iphones and other smart phones. I remember the amount of use I put into my little Motorola flip phone to try and compensate for its sudden lack of “intelligence”. Those three long years, I felt like I was being left behind in terms of cell phone technology which speaks volumes to the sad reality of consumerism, to which I believe none of us are immune (with the possible exception of those raised in complete isolation from modern media). Meanwhile, Facebook became popularized at this time and I began updating my profile every chance I got, putting a new display picture, a new favourite book or movie, writing new statuses every day. While it is clear that Facebook has many practical uses in the modern age - like sharing pictures, sending event invitations, contacting old friends - but it also clear that it only worsened our dependence on computer interaction as a substitute for genuine human relationships.
Towards the end of high school and throughout CEGEP, it became increasingly normal to interact with peers outside of school in a party context. Finally, a chance for us to all improve our social skills, the development of which had been held back by our dependence on social media and online chat programs. Instead of losing our dependence on these digital mediums, we simply began using them to provide meaning to our social interactions, accomplishments and adventures. The expression “pics or it didn’t happen” is just the tip of the sad iceberg that is our need for attention and recognition from our digital friends. Posting pictures of the parties we went to, videos of the music we listened to, the jobs we did, the places we visited and the “friends” we made along the way. The fact that we depend on Facebook and other social media platforms to give us our credibility shows that we no longer do things for the joy we, ourselves, find in those pursuits. We do things merely to gain acceptance by or recognition from others.
After my first year of undergrad, I finally got an iPhone. I couldn’t believe how amazing this device was and how much it simplified my life. Every time I wondered about something, I could ask my iPhone and, with a little help from 3G and Google, the answer always came within seconds. Texting was faster than ever, I could take quality pictures anytime, anyplace, and my music was always with me everywhere I went. Life was going great! Then, after I moved to Vancouver last fall, as I sat down for beers with new friends in my new program in a new city, I looked around the table at one point and not a single set of eyes caught mine. Without fail, every single set of eyes was staring down at their iPhones (or maybe one person had a Samsung Galaxy, but you get the picture). These are all great people, but like me, they had become so dependent on their phones and the information or social interactions it provides, they forgot about their new friends sitting around the table.
Technology is the paradox of the modern era. Some technological developments can cure disease, fly 100 people to the other side of the world in 15 hours or make all the information ever produced readily available to anyone with an internet connection. Other technological developments can annihilate an entire city like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, creating only destruction and death. The technology that has developed in the past decade that allows us to interact socially from our computers and now, even from our cell phones, has many advantages. The saddest disadvantage it creates is our inability to form relationships that are innately meaningful, that do not simply earn their meaning once they pass a minimum threshold of Facebook “likes”. It saddens me to see our dependence on the approval of others to give meaning to our lives. If you disagree with me, that’s perfectly fine and you are certainly in the majority so just go back to your iPhone and find out what other people have been posting recently. If you agree with me, then please take the time to set limits on your use of these mobile technologies. There is beauty all around us and we may even find that, if we talk to our friends in person, they might tell us things that would never have ended up on Facebook or Twitter. We might even find out that they are actually really cool people.
#learntolove #cell #socialskills #technology #acceptance #dependence