When walking down any street in America today you will see people looking down at their phones. Anywhere there is a wifi connection people will be browsing the internet. The average millenial will be on their phone as soon as they wake up to browsing their social media feeds to see what their friends have been posting. This constant stream of thoughtless noise can be toxic to people and their lifestyle. People who create this habit of connecting to their phone they start to connect not with their friends or family, but the phone itself. They become addicted to their phones and go great lengths such as risking their lives while driving to check their messages. Although the creation of the mobile phone was intended to bring people closer together, it has only estranged people from the community around themselves by setting up false expectations for one’s self, allowing people to create unhealthy bonds, and forcing them to shelter themselves from the outside world.
Because of the internet, the social bonds people create are far different than before. Although one can argue that social media allows for relationships to grow stronger, phones have in reality created a greater disconnect between friends. When anyone logs onto social media the first thing that pops up is what everyone is saying. These sites and apps are like voids that people are able to shout their opinions and views into at all hours of the day. Within the void people are posting photos with hashtags and captions of positivity telling of their great vacation or their night out with their partner. Pages are created for each individual so they can showcase their life on a platter for each one of their peers to judge. It is to be expected that what a person is putting on their page is the truth, but does anyone really adhere to this? If people were honest there would be more posts talking about the long hours they have to work to get food on the table, or the embarrassing hardships they are going through. It seems outlandish and crazy because this would never happen. People don’t want to share their true self on the internet, they want their best or possibly a false self there. The best example of this is the episode titled Nosedive from the Netflix series Black Mirror. The episode takes place in an exaggerated version of the media filled world of today and shows what the future could potentially look like. In this future everyone has a number rating that is based on how others perceive you.The main character Lacie is obsessed with raising her number so that in turn her social status will be raised. Many times during the episode Lacie looks through her feed of people posting about their lives and rates them highly so they will rate her back. She doesn’t actually care about the individual person, but getting their approval. In a specific scene she takes the time to order a coffee for the sole purpose of getting the perfect photo of it. She then posts the photo of her coffee saying it tastes like heaven! but as soon as she actually takes a sip she scrunches up her face in disgust. This disgust clears up quickly though because her phone lights up with notifications telling her that people are liking the photo. This shows that she doesn’t receive joy from her surroundings or her experiences, but from what her phone is telling her. None of what she is putting out into her social media is truthful to who she is as a person or what she is experiencing, and this isn’t that far from the current reality. People all over the world put out pictures and text on the internet that makes their life seem like the ideal one even when it’s far from the truth. In turn people see this fallacy and wonder if their own life is as interesting as it should be, creating a cycle of self conscious people hiding their real selves from the world around them. It creates a disconnect. People believe that they are equally sharing information as their friends are with them, but both parties are trying to hide all of the uncomfortable subjects and going so far as to lying to make it seem like their life is more interesting. Instead of being more connected with others and interested in what is happening in their lives, people are more connected to the number of friends and likes they are getting on their post. People connect to the notifications on their phones instead of the people which causes an unhealthy bond to their phone.
These bonds people are creating with their phone can be toxic and seep into their real life. Because phones can connect people to a larger world than where they live it creates an opportunity for people to use their phone as an escape from their real life. If left to extreme this could ruin a person’s real life. People will claim that being on their phone connects them to the people they most care about, but what if these people are connecting not to their friends but to their phone? One specific example of this is found in Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together specifically the chapter titled Growing up Tethered. In this chapter she explores the impact that phones and social media has had on kids because there hasn’t been any previous generation with this kind of technology. Turkle talks to a teenager named Julia about her relationship with her phone and texting; Julia describes how painful it is to text about ‘feelings’ and get no response: ‘I get mad. Even if I email someone, I want the response, like, right there answering me??¦ if they don’t answer me, and I’ll text them again. ‘Are you mad? Are you there? Are you okay?’ (Turkle 176). Anyone can see that Julia is an average teenage girl who likes to be on her phone texting her friends, but when one looks closer at her response it actually sounds like she’s addicted to online messaging. When she doesn’t feel good she looks to her phone to feel better just as a drug addict turns to drugs. She gets a high from getting a response from her friends. She wants that validation that everything will be okay, and just like an addict when her friends don’t respond she gets withdrawals. She gets anxious wondering if her friends don’t like her anymore or if something bad happened to them because they aren’t able to answer their phone. This relationship just like any addiction needs to be taken under control before it gets worse. Turkle shows how this relationship with phones and social media has become a part of teens’ lives and something they can’t live without. In the full chapter she goes on to talk about how this fills up every second of their lives leaving no room for self reflection or contemplation. If teens go to their friends first with their problems they don’t fully get to sit with the feeling they’re experiencing and try to figure it out for themselves. It’s the friends to tell them how they should feel about the situation not their own conscious. Social media along with creating a connection with friends that have met in real life, it also brings connections to people that have never met before which can unintentionally be harmful for both parties.
Even when connecting with thousands of people at a time, the internet is built in a way that can make isolation very easy. When anyone is browsing on the internet they can choose who and what they want to see. Automated systems are set in place that learn from what people are searching and recommend similar topics or stories that they will likely enjoy. Although this can be helpful for people wanting to spend less time searching and more time enjoying content, it can have far greater consequences. For example in Charles Seife’s article The Loneliness of the Interconnected he talks about how the internet has allowed people to create their own groups and spread misinformation like wildfire. In one case a mom made a blog post about a disease her son had that doctors were dumb founded by. Her story was seen by others and in no time thousands of people were sharing their similar experiences with the specific ailment and their own failures to find a cure. It became so popular and seen by so many people that the Mayo Clinic was alerted to the epidemic and ran a study. Surely if thousands of people came together all experiencing the same symptoms then they would be able to find some sort of cure right? But the problem is that the Mayo Clinic couldn’t find anything wrong with any of the patients they studied. All of them were perfectly healthy and doctors announced that there was no such thing as such a disease. The patients of course didn’t believe them. They had spent so much time reading each other’s posts, getting to know this community of people struggling with a disease and hoping to find a cure that when told that the whole thing wasn’t real they just couldn’t bring themselves to believe that the whole thing was fake. They had become so wrapped up with the thought that themselves and hundreds of people were suffering with a horrible sickness and they didn’t want to believe it. If this had happened in a time where social media didn’t exist then there would’ve been no way the fake disease could’ve spread as wide and fast as it did. The internet allowed for people to write stories that weren’t true and convince each other that they were suffering from a disease that wasn’t even real. Because they formed this group it created a barrier between themselves and the truth and they were able to hide themselves from reality. They’ve estranged themselves from anyone who thinks that the sickness was a lie because they have hundreds of people on the internet to back them up who are able to assure them that they aren’t crazy. This is so unhealthy because they are no longer sure who they can trust. How can anyone trust a doctor who refuses to treat an illness that you believe you are suffering from. These seemingly small communities that are created online end up creating larger problems for people in their real life.
Because of social media people are being brainwashed to leave their real lives and dedicate more time to their online commitments. As seen in Black Mirror, it tricks people into turning on their friends to try to become better than all of them. Different social media platforms will reward members for receiving a higher amount of likes with banners and a pop up when they reach a milestone. The internet has a greater control on people by the fact that everyone has their phone on themselves at all times. This makes people more in need for constant gratification. Before cell phones it would take a phone call on a landline or handwritten letter in the mail to contact a long distance friend. But because society has become accustomed to receiving messages instantly that if anything takes a longer amount of time it becomes a major inconvenience and waste of time. Each person is expected to return messages at any time of the day because it takes so little time to reply. But when do people get a break? There is no way to get everyone to quit the internet. It’s far too wide spread and integrated into daily life, but each individual needs to be aware of how they are spending their time and how that is affecting their life. At the end of the day social media is unnecessary and becomes more harm than good when used to extremes.
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