In the past months there has been a story going around like fire on Social Media, that ironically called out Social Media for promoting fake connections. This, of course, is nothing new, articles like this, this and this, pop out every once in a while, always romanticizing the past and the “good old days”, before smartphones and social media, when, in their words, “people made real connections” and “led real lives”. I always read them and cringe a little bit inside, as a Historian and a Tech Lover I laugh at neo-luddites that believe technology (specially smartphones) arrived to ruin their lives, and share videos like this:
or images like this one (As a side note, the is not proof of Einstein ever saying this, there is however, a 90s movie about geniuses with super powers that mentions this quote)
I believe that the use technology is part of the normal evolution of mankind, and that they are blaming technology for a sin that come with social interactions. I don’t think smartphones and Social Media are making us antisocial, on the contrary, they allow us to communicate in a way that was previously unimaginable, and today, people have the option of connecting in the way that they feel more happy with.
So here are 4 reasons why we should stop saying Social Media is ruining our lives:
- It is a new Social Norm:
Times change and we have to get on board with it, it does little good to reminisce about the past, and go against the changes of our time. Interaction through Social Media is becoming the Norm on most societies. the usage of online dating has gone through the roof since apps like Tinder arrived and marriages that met through online dating services are increasing and e-learning market is expected to hit the $107 billion in revenue by the end of the year, the faster we agree that it has become the Social Norm the better we can adjust. It is fun to remember how we used to interact before smartphones and social media, when a boy used to call to the girls house and hope that she would answer instead of one of her parents, today it is as simple as sending a text, a snap or a tweet; or when the only means of getting a degree in a specific topic was to move to where it was being taught, but times have changed and the Social Norm is changing.
2. Teaches kids how to communicate and interact online:
One of the most important things about Social Media when it comes to a younger generation is that it is teaching kids how to interact online from a very young age. We are seeing a big generational gap when it comes to online communication, where older generations are the ones most commonly making social blunders, not understanding netiquette and online social cues. For example, for a long time my mother used the “tears of joy” emoji as regular crying emoji, she only knew the difference when a friend gave some bad news and she responded with “tears of joy”. Something similar is this #parentfail:
3. Opens up the world:
One of the wonders of Social Media is the small world it creates. We are following news in real time from around the world and from many different perspectives, long gone are the times when we had to wait for the news to come from a distant part of the world. In 1985 my parents went to Paris, the day after they landed one of the biggest earthquakes in Mexican history shook the city. There was no way of contacting their family, and news in Europe about the earthquake where scarce and non-specific, it took them 4 days to make sure their family was ok, and it was only because an uncle, who spoke French, was interviewed by a French reporter and appeared on the news my parents where watching, otherwise it would have taken them more time to establish contact. Today we follow human and natural disasters in real time; we all followed the course of Hurricane Patricia as it scaled from a tropical storm to the strongest hurricane ever recorded and back to a tropical storm in the course of 48 hours. We all new about the attacks in Paris in a matter of seconds, and most had changed their profile picture on Facebook to show support by the next day.
4. It can be used for educational Purpose:
I left this at the end because it can be a post on itself, but Social Media can be used for educational purposes without being a distraction. there are thousands and maybe millions of teachers using a form of Social Media to communicate with their students. In this interview where David Silver talks about how he integrates Twitter in the classroom in activities like a sourced reading where students look for readings and share them with the class, or maybe Joli Barker with her fearless classroom fighting to spread a message of self worth and hope through Social Media petitions. Or lastly Facing History, an amazing project that connects students and classrooms around the world with holocaust survivors using Skype. Like these there are million more ways of taking advantage of a tool that can only enrich the educational scene if we stop fighting it.
In conclusion I think we should stop blaming technology for the sins of humanity. People might think that the kids taking a selfie are self absorb, but they are actually sharing their experience with close friends; or that the silly man sitting alone laughing at his screen is actually laughing with a friends miles and miles away. Technology and social media are not ruining our lives, and we haven’t become slaves to our tech masters (at least not yet), on the contrary, we have benefited immensely from this new form of interaction. We should stop pretending that our lives would be better without technology, and instead, we should reflect on our own use of technology, and think of all the ways and reasons we are using technology and Social Media in a very positive way.