Is Social Media Ruining Your Social Life?

May 30, 2022, 12:16 IST

Social Media

Illustartions: Dhanashree Koli

There is a life beyond screens. Make sure you ‘like’ it. By Ritu Ailani

Let them know we smile, we laugh, we love our life. We love our life. We love our life. We love our likes, our comments, our common interests being that we like being liked.” A Chicago-based performing arts student Shea Glover recited these lines in her spoken word poem Social Media. Her video struck a chord with thousands of people on YouTube. They said her words were ‘powerful’ and ‘poignant’, before going back to scroll through their Instagram feeds.

Perhaps that’s why she ends the piece the way she did: Hearing her phone beep, she hurriedly picks it up to check her latest notifications. You wait for her to put it down and finish what she had to say, but she never does. You spend the next minute watching her slip into a rabbit hole of likes, comments and shares, before realising you’re in one yourself. That’s how most conversations are these days. And, somehow, we’ve accepted this matrix as a way of life.

A similar thing happened when The Social Dilemma released on Netflix. The documentary revealed the shocking game plan of tech giants who deploy billions of dollars to use human psychology against us, and keep people hooked to their apps like puppets on a string. The developers roped in for the film confessed that they knew all along the repercussions of this technology on human relationships. They highlighted that the rate at which youngsters these days are obtaining driving licences or going out on real dates is substantially lower compared to the previous generation, because they don’t know a life outside their 4x4-inch screens. Ironically enough, when that cat was let out of the bag, audiences took to social media to debate and discuss the issue.

Social Media

The Millennial Problem
A motivational speaker and author of bestsellers Leaders Eat Last and Start With Why, Simon Sinek is known to have perfectly articulated what he calls ‘The millennial problem’ in one of his talks. He says, “Because we’ve allowed unfettered access to these dopamine-producing devices and media, millennials don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships. They admit that many of their friendships are superficial, and that they don’t count on their friends. They have fun with their friends, but they also know that their friends will cancel on them if something better comes along.” Additionally, he points out that they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So, when significant stress shows up, instead of turning to a person, they turn to a device.

After the summer holidays leading up to her sophomore year at Dubai American Academy, Mayurakshi Ghosal found her best friend acting distant. The reason, believe it or not, was that Ghosal had failed to maintain a Snapchat streak with her while spending time with her grandparents back in India. “I started to realise that our friendship was nothing but sending black screens to each other for a hundred days just to keep a streak going,” Ghosal shared in her Ted Talk. “Our past hangouts were only of us taking tons of pictures to post on Instagram and texting our other friends about just how much fun we were having.”

This awareness pushed Ghosal to do in-depth research on the impact of social media on relationships. She found that she wasn’t the only one going through this, and that an overdependence on these apps was making people unknowingly get caught up in relationships that were meaningless and superficial.

Social Media
Illustartions: Dhanashree Koli

The Friendship Test
To find out how real or superficial your connections are, here are
some questions from an online news platform called Elite Daily that are worth asking yourself.

- When you hang out, do you spend your time together doing something worthwhile or talking about something worthwhile?
- Do you feel comfortable asking them for help? Will they actually help?
- Do you talk to them frequently and not just a few times a year?
- Do you consider yourself to have a higher level of closeness with this person than you have with all the other people you interact with?
- Is face-to-face interaction your main form of communication?

If the answer to these is ‘yes’, then you and your friends share a meaningful bond with each another. If it’s ‘no’ or even ‘maybe’, then you must take corrective measures.

Go phone-free
When going out to meet your friends, leave your phone behind at times. This will help you stay present in the moment and break the habit of reaching for your phone when people around you are having a conversation.

Limit your time on social media
Set a strict screen time limit while hanging out with your friends. Take a few pictures if you want, but don’t
be on your phone all the time.

Participate in an activity together
Engage yourselves in activities such as cooking, painting or going for walks – activities that do not require your phone. This will also give you some fond memories to look back on.

Don’t post everything online
Not everything about your life needs to be made public. At times, the best place to store your experiences is in your memory. This also proves that you genuinely want to spend time with your friends, and your moments together are not merely an opportunity to get social approval.

Get to know your friends better
Make the effort to get to know your friends beyond the superficiality of responding to their Instagram stories and maintaining Snapchat streaks with them. Get to know their families, their likes and dislikes, anecdotes from their childhood, their future goals. That’s how real connections are made.