Today I witnessed the death of our ability to truly communicate like actual human beings. Facebook notified me that somebody had “reacted” to my message and I was horrified to realise that you can now treat somebody’s direct message like a status.
Satisfying our ever growing and unquenchable thirst for acknowledgement and feedback, now we can be safe in the knowledge that your well-searched, well-timed meme to the group chat is indeed worth a laughing face.
Facebook has gone all out and granted us the ability to decide whether we like, dislike, or love someone’s message, whether it makes us laugh, cry, get angry or act shocked, all with the use of an emoji. This isn’t new to Facebook, as the site introduced ‘reactions’ to status’s in February last year. But now the ability to avoid real conversation is being extended to our personal communications.
In an argument with your significant other? No worries mate, just click on the angry face. Your long distance best friend has just told you they are dropping out of uni? Forget the words! A shocked face will do.
Firstly, our ability and inclination to put our effort into a in-depth conversation is in danger of dwindling away into a world of emojis as social media sites make it less and less necessary to actually use your brain to think up words and string them together in a sentence.
Not only can you react to the other person’s message- but to your own as well, because why the hell not.
As if we needed to give baby boomers another reason to call us narcissistic.
It’s no wonder I’m experiencing a bit of an identity crisis at the age of 20, when I’m reliant on social media for feedback and on the number of likes on my post for evidence of how good it is.
We’ve all been there. We post what we think is a witty and amusing tweet with just the right hint of cultural relevance, but it floats around the Twittersphere gaining only a few sparse likes. You whack a well-angled picture of art, which shows you as a sophisticated being, with just a hint of Valencia and it hardly makes it beyond double figures. You feel a bit disappointed, start to question whether it was a good post in the first place, and maybe even silently delete it in your shame-filled narcissist rage of low self-esteem.
Then, in rare moments of internet fame, your post rates in the likes and retweets, and you suddenly feel like an untouchable social media guru.
We seem to have lost the ability to self-reflect, giving the responsibility instead to social media users with their fickle and short-lived attention spans.
I’m a fan of pretty much anything which limits the need for human interaction for when I’d rather stay in my own little day dream than make small talk with a stranger. Self-scanners at supermarkets remove the pressure of trying to pack as fast as the person serving you, self-check in screens at the doctors mean you don’t even have to muster the energy to share your name and getting your greasy fast food is as easy so clicking a screen.
But really, this is just getting a bit sad and depressing, isn’t it?
Social media, in a pretty ironic way, is silently killing our ability to interact on a proper human level. As if it’s not enough that we are spending more time online than we are sleeping, now even our level of communication on social media is being morphed to simultaneously increase the scope of interaction we have and ultimately reducing our ability to use actual words.
The ability to like comments and quickly kill a dying conversation began way back in 2010 on Facebook. It was truly a welcomed change; for how did we survive before this? Did we just deal with the awkwardness of silently letting someone be the final commentator, without any acknowledgement of what they said? Or did we just continue to comment relentlessly? Are we are still sending ‘:L’ faces back to our bezzie pals on a seven year old status about the sick weekend you had? No, I think we can all agree that life is much better with like buttons in it.
You now never have to acknowledge your friends comments or messages again, since Instagram introduced a like option on comments back in December 2016, a mere 6 years after Facebook.
This is perfect for those times when you’re lost for words at the latest comment on your selfie which consists entirely of flame emojis and nothing else. It’s also great for the introverts out there, like me, who second-guess every word, typed or spoken, that I produce. Can’t go wrong with a like!
This online interaction is stretching to mental health too. Never mind the multitude of apps available to practice mindfulness or connect you to support groups, you can now get counselling online with betterhelp.com. I am in no way qualified or knowledgeable enough to state whether this is a good or bad thing. People suffering from depression may find it impossible to leave their beds, making online help a perfect alternative to leaving the house to see a real life doctor. On the other hand though, this means they may not even attempt to challenge their depression and see if they can make progress today.
Technology is embracing us in a warm cocoon of ease and comfort where self-worth is equivalent to the success or our online presence.
We are heading toward a future of robot workers, who will change the world of work entirely, and some people predict mass unemployment whilst others embrace robot doctors as the future. Technology serves to make our lives easier, but I get the feeling this may make us lazier. Lazier in our command of the English language, in our desire to really listen to and react (no, not Facebook react) to what people say.
I’m reassured by the amount of healthy debate I see in the comments of pretty much every political or slightly controversial news article, but then think about my pathetic contribution of “liking” a comment I agree with, and wonder whether the art of arguing and communication will be murdered by a stream of symbols and clicks like some eerie new-age apocalypse.
Now I invite you to do the unthinkable and comment on this blog with your thoughts. Too much? Never mind, there’s always the like button.