Recently, I sat with a friend in a restaurant. While we engaged in friendly conversation I noticed groups of people gathered around other tables. A few of them smiled as they animatedly talked to their loved ones facing them.
But as I turned my attention to more tables, I noticed a peculiar silence settling among some groups. Other tables were filled with people who were engaging in conversation, but the chatter appeared to be one-sided as the ones who were "listening" were in the middle of conversing with multiple people by twiddling their thumbs on miniature, glowing screens.
Did you know there was once a time when everyone at the family dinner table spoke to one another without the constant chiming and buzzing of smart phones?
Did you know that smart phones are capable of being turned off?
It seems that some are not aware of these facts. Remembering a time when social media and texting were not around is growing more difficult. The use of new communication mediums has skyrocketed in the last decade alone. Although these multiple mediums of communication have given people remarkable ways to stay in touch with one another, social media is leaving its muddy footprints on interpersonal communication skills.
We have become a civilization that looks at all aspects of life through a filtered screen.
Society's zeal in social media and technology is hindering face-to-face communication. For one, those addicted to social media and texting are more likely to be preoccupied in online posting than in verbal conversation with their family and friends. Even bullies find their assaults much more effective and effortless while hiding behind a computer screen within the safety of their homes.
There is nothing more frustrating than receiving an invite to go out with someone via text message and then being unable to communicate with them in person.
Have we really grown so accustomed to only speaking through a glowing screen and clicking keyboards that we cannot emotionally connect with others anymore?
We are all guilty of pulling out our smart phones to avoid small talk. Don't get me wrong - I text so much that my thumbs nearly fall off because that is how most everyone communicates these days. But, along with many others, I value and prefer the intimacy of face-to-face conversation.
Posting on social media is causing many to constantly compare their lives to others'. Facebook and Instagram give users unlimited access to photo of peers and strangers.
Becoming consumed in your best friend's seemingly perfect marriage over Facebook could make your own relationship vulnerable. It's easy to become envious when you constantly check what amazing things your friend's spouse does, especially if you make comparisons to your own spouse.
This unhealthy and constant comparison leads to false expectations that are often not lived up to. What many do not realize is that positive and seemingly perfect moments in a relationship are highlighted by constant posts on media; but, in reality, the poster's relationship may not be as flawless as he or she makes it out to be. Longing for a perfect relationship causes unnecessary conflict within one that is already healthy and stable.
Living in the moment
Finally, social media addiction is constantly getting in the way of enjoying a glorious moment without looking through a smart phone camera.
I have witnessed the most beautiful scenery be completely ignored by teenagers who whipped out their selfie sticks to post a photo of their faces instead of the gorgeous scene behind them. And for what purpose? To bask in the amount of Facebook "likes" that photo will receive? I have seen the same act at concerts or events with people concentrating on recording the show on their smart phones for later viewing, fully disregarding the memorable event happening in front of them.
The smart phone is becoming a filter that removes all sense of passion and attentiveness to the present.
Taking a break
When was the last time you turned off your technology and spent quality time with your loved ones without the constant interruption of trending Tweets?
Just like the people I witnessed at the restaurant, our loved ones suffer because of our inability to fully give them our sincere attention. And, not paying attention is usually not deliberate because social media is an effortless distraction.
Healthy relationships are centered on true communication with one another. Without proper communication and the ability to express one's true emotions and thoughts with their loved ones, the strength of relationships diminish. Even potential relationships suffer when the only way two people can fully communicate is through streamed technology.
Let us all take a moment to decide if we would rather stalk old high school frenemies on Facebook or pay attention to the person who truly cares that is currently sitting across from us. It is time we prioritize what and who deserves our full attention and love because, frankly, smart phones are terrible listeners.
Chakell Wardleigh has a Bachelor of Arts in English. She spends her days silently (mostly) correcting others' grammar. She adores all things nerd, such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Shakespeare, and anything else that whisks her away from reality. She currently works as an editor for the FamilyShare team. You can usually find her with her nose in a book, laughing too loudly, or belting out songs from Hamilton.