I’m apparently apart of that micro generation called Xennials, which were babies born from 1978-1983, where we’re not entirely influenced By Gen X’ers or Millennials. The internet wasn’t really a viable thing until I was 16, when I would spend as many hours on AOL chat rooms as I was permitted. So I’m very clear what human connection was like before broadband access and what it became after.
While X’ers began to express their concerns of putting our lives online, it was something easier for me to accept. In large part, my embracing of the emerging technologies had to do with the fact that I was always an outsider to the community around me. I often found myself rejected and used as a punch line for others. Going online, I suddenly discovered an even larger world where instead of finding ridicule, I found acceptance. This is why I’ve always defended social networking, because I have been fortunate enough for it to have connected me to a lot of amazing people.
As long as I was using these resources to make real world connections, it served me well. It was a healthy outlet. Today though, I look over the 2,000 plus friends that I’ve picked up on Facebook and wonder who most of these people are. I don’t remember adding them, or them adding me. It’s rare that I receive comments from a good majority of them, perhaps a quick click of a reaction button, but nothing more. Even my own participation in the online community has diminished and I’ve become guilty of “heart” reacting, or giving a mostly meaningless “thumbs up”. What do these things even mean?
Taking a step back, I see where things went wrong. Using these platforms became more like an addiction than an engaging environment. Where cat memes, alt-right propaganda, and click-bait articles have replaced something as simple as a status update. How often do you actually see a post about someones day or their lives anymore? Along the way, these platforms stopped being about connection, but rather soap boxes for people to yell from and billboards to constantly flash ads into your eyes.
Perhaps the worst thing that has happened, the definition of “friend” has been redefined. “You have a new friend request” “Accept” “Decline”, then once you hit a button, they’re your friend. A person you’ve never meet, will probably never meet, will have little to no interaction with and won’t even remember accepting in the first place. What did you gain from it? Your friend count went up, which means that if those strangers react of comment on your posts, you’ll build up your statistics and your posts will be seen by more people. Then, the process repeats and no meaningful connections are made.
Is it any wonder why depression and suicide rates are so high? We made these platforms the thing, when they should only be facilitators to the thing, which is human contact. It’s like money, it should only be used to follow your dreams, not be the dream.
What am I getting at with this? I’m choosing to use these tools again the way they best serve me. I’m taking back the real meaning of “friend” and disconnecting from people who look at me as a fan or a number. I’m going to take the time to actually write a well thought out comment. I’m blocking every ad, overshared link, and troll that wants to hijack my time. I’m actually going to strive to meet these people I connect with online, somehow, some way. I’m not going to be an addict for attention, when I could be having conversations with a real person in the real world in real time. So I’ll keep these apps, continue to use them, but set a clear boundary about what it’s for and what its actual value is to me. Most importantly, I’m a user, but I will bot be used for the purpose of some faceless company for data mining purposes. It’s time to reevaluate what we need in our lives. I appreciate the reactions or the comments, but I would rather connect.
Escape The Ordinary,