It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon. I took the mellow setting to let my thoughts wander and my mood slowly become a darker place. What a great time to philosophize about the weird world we live in.
On these days I like to focus on nothing but myself. My iPhone is lying next to me but I would ignore every single message and call. I was born in the mid-90s and grew up with digital media – however, I’m happy my childhood was filled with bruises and adventures and all the technology wouldn’t become a thing until puberty.
As I reflect about that, I once again realize how drastically the way people interact with each other has changed ever since social networks came up and increased in popularity. Today there is a massive difference between online and offline communication.
With just a single click you are able to share information with hundreds of friends and thousands of followers, while, at the same time, enjoy the advantages of anonymity on the web. Whoever you want to be, you can be that person. Or at least pretend to. You can make people believe different things about yourself by just providing content that matches this particular image.
While some years back the only value that was of any matter was authenticity, it has now become the amount of followers you have and how many people interact with the content you provide.
We live in a world where a digital number of followers became a currency, something that reflects how valuable someone is.
Nowadays people don’t just share content to let their friends have a more intimate view of their lives. The media you provide became a way of showing your support or interest in something, a way of spreading information and awareness – or just increasing the activity on your own profile.
For many users, social networks are a way to receive positive feedback. Seeing other people interact with their content leaves a feeling of being worshipped and appreciated. What has been adventures and fights and blindly trusting each other ten years back has now become tagging your friends in memes that are funny or connect to an experience or memory you had together. Though it seems completely different, both are ways to strengthen a friendship. When we felt happiness if someone told a funny story, people do it now when a friend they tagged in a picture liked or, even better, commented on that. The way we create and process memories has drastically changed.
Instead of seeing each other after school we are happy to go home, hide from any responsibilities but still stay in contact with friends as they appear on our newsfeeds.
Now, it’s not all bad. Not everyone is that extrovert and open. Especially in times of depression and social anxiety, online media acts as an alternative way of communication for people who have difficulties with social contacts, all driven by their fear of being denied.
Speaking of that, people who are depressed or feel lonely tend to use social networks a lot, since it is an easy and fast way to ease those negative feelings by increasing social contacts.
However, this is no alternative to the real thing at all. If you have problems, consult a therapist. If you want to live a social life, go out. Social Networks can’t fight the problems of loneliness longterm effectively. Furthermore, they can actually make it even worse by cutting off all offline friendships.