Since the rise of social media platforms in the late 2000s, the way we communicate as a society has been ever changing; however, are these systems really bringing us closer with our peers? Or are they slowly deteriorating our connections with our friends, family and significant others?
Think about the last time you hung out with your friend group. Perhaps you went to an event, or perhaps it was just hanging out at someone’s house. Now think about how often you were actively involved in the conversation, versus how often you were multitasking between scrolling through your Instagram, texting another person or sending off a Snapchat for a streak.
Whether you may admit to it or not, we are constantly guilty of multitasking for all the wrong reasons. In any relationship, whether this be a friendship, a familiar one, or a romantic relationship, both communication and listening are mandatory components to achieve a level of understanding as well as intellect with one another. Without this, we may as well be sitting beside strangers looking at each other blankly.
In general, listening and nonverbal communication attributes to about 65 percent of our conversations. This is because it involves the understanding, interpretation, remembering, evaluating and actual feedback necessary in order to maintain a healthy conversation with someone. However, our society, specifically the I-Gen population, only actually listens to 25 percent of what we hear. This presents itself in the form of pseudo-listening - basically, pretending to hear and listen to what someone is saying, when you’re really thinking about how funny that meme was, what filter to use on Snapchat or that last text you just got.
While this may seem like an unimportant gesture in the grand scheme of things, pseudo-listening affects the maturity, strength and understanding of our relationships. Everyone understands the annoyance when you are trying to tell a close friend how stressed you are over a certain incident, and they’re scrolling through their phone responding with “yeah I know right” and “yeah totally.” This obviously implies that the person does not actually care to talk about how you’re feeling, and you may be less likely to trust that person to confide in. In certain cases, especially in instances of romantic relationships, you may even feel as though this person does not care about you or your feelings at all.
However, the destructive nature of social media and its consumption does not stop there. We have stopped going places or attending events for the sole purpose of enjoyment, and rather to get a good “gram” or take as many cool “snap stories” as we can. We essentially want bragging rights over the fact that we did something more adventurous and spontaneous than everyone else on our feed. Though we hate to deny this fact, it is what society expects of us: If you didn’t post a picture from Coachella, did you really go?
Now this may seem more self-destructive than relationship-concerned, however in practice we know that we all have that friend that only wants to go out to dinner to post about it, completely ruining the aspect of a fun dinner out with friends or the date you’ve been looking forward to. Social media has almost become a competition of sorts. Take for instance the previous example of attending Coachella. The entire day is spent trying to take the trendiest pictures next to the architecture and landscaping of the event, not actually listening to the music or spending time with the group of friends, family or your loved one you are in attendance with.
Social media platforms are what we make of them. It’s not to say that none of us are guilty of these premises, nor that they are making us worse people. It is to say, however, that there are direct correlations in the consequences between the time we spend listening and spending time with those around us, and the time we spend scrolling through our apps. Take time to listen, take time to experience and take time to relax without having a screen inches from your face. It is a marvelous privilege we have been given to be able to instantaneously share with those around us our thoughts, travels and enjoyments; be wary in the fact that you do not abuse it only to find out you have in term abused yourself.
Katherine Blaine is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.