Posted in Of Culturel

Of Relationships and Social Media

Survival of the Smartest (Courtesy: Pixabay)

Yet this distance, all those abysses unabridged and then unabridgeable by radio, television, cheap travel and the rest, was not wholly bad. People knew less of each other, perhaps, but they felt more free of each other, and so were more individual. The entire world was not for them only a push or a switch away. Strangers were strange, and sometimes with an exciting, beautiful strangeness. It may be better for humanity that we should communicate more and more. But I am a heretic, I think our ancestors’ isolation was like the greater space they enjoyed; it can only be envied. The world is only too literally too much with us now. – John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Whatsoever is delighted by solitude, is either a wild beast or a god. -Aristotle, Politics

We understand our constantly panicked state, our fragmentary response to a fragmented world, our need to absorb everything and digest nothing, our need to reveal everything and express nothing, our fear that if we do not evolve with the times, we will be held back, worse, we will die. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is as true now as it was 150 years ago, when it was first expressed. The condition for being fit enough to survive was adaptability, and that entails being true to what is now, than what may have been true once, but is distant, romantic and most of all, dead. There is no a-social media, only pre-social media. Social media is not a part of our lives, it is our lives.

But all this has been said before. Some enjoy it, some partake out of necessity, some reject it, some are rejected by it, some do it when it suits them. It’s not like having a voter’s card or a citizenship status – something you have to have. Then why is it that most people who complain about it are unwilling participants, instead of confident dismissers? Is it because they are more aware of the consequences than those who more fully enjoy it? Do they find it harder to adapt? Are they, by nature, more suspicious? Or are they plain old cranks, and in this case hypocrites, who have to have a problem with everything?


Social Media (Courtesy: Pixabay)

I think it comes down to one thing: relationships. Of all kinds, with other people as well as yourself. No matter how wholeheartedly you enjoy social media or dismiss it, it has affected the quality of your relationships, for the worse. Hold that thought about long-distance video-chatting on Skype and Whatsapp with your loved ones for a moment, because I am talking about your everyday, closer-at-home relationships for now. Think about it. The act of writing something down, especially something that you genuinely feel, something that makes you vulnerable even if it is a more violent emotion like anger, would make you think several times before sending it off for at least one other person to see. Back in the day, there were many unsent letters, or letters that had several drafts, because people used writing as a way of putting their thoughts across in a manner that they supposed was effective. But now, when we have a keyboard at our fingertips constantly, we type and hit ‘send’ first and regret after we’ve sent it out in irredeemable form. We were always more spontaneous in verbal communication, but we had writing to help us communicate better, something we have evolved to lose.

In My Honest Opinion (Courtesy: Pixabay)

But hey, if we’ve become adapted to it, it must have its benefits. Perhaps, we accept all around that everybody does embarrassing things on their social media, quite often, and it makes us more vulnerable and more human, which in turn should make us more acceptable. I agree, as long as it provides us with more qualitative relationships. Not quantitative, like the number of your Facebook friends. But then again, isn’t having more friends more scientifically sound than having better friends? It is, as long as you are well-connected enough to have people do things for you with their specific skills-set, just as you do the same for them. Because, that’s what friends are for, right?

Therefore, as far as human evolution is concerned, social media is completely logical. Sure, there is a cheapness in communication, but there is more of it. You need that 80% of trash Whatsapp and Facebook messages and updates to look at constantly, because that’s the price you pay for the 20% meaningful information. There is nothing wrong when the bulk of your in-person conversation is about what you’ve already communicated to each other via social media, because that is what you’ve been doing with your time anyway. Most of all, we’ve adapted ourselves to documenting moments of our lives we consider important instead of experiencing it (or looking at others’ documents, in lieu of experiencing ours) because it makes us feel less alone, less scared, than having the experience for it’s own pleasure. Because we’re not gods or wild animals, we do what we need in order to be accepted by others of our tribe. Which is doing the same as everyone else.

Do you think we need social media to survive?

Related post: Of Knowing Me, Knowing You


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

10 thoughts on “Of Relationships and Social Media

  1. Excellent, excellent post. Very timely and thought provoking. First, in answer to your question, my answer is no. I have hovered over the delete button on FB more than once. Perhaps being my age I can more readily remember the years of not having social media versus the years of not having it. So that is why though occasionally I do get a little too attached to it, I am able to distance myself too. Sometimes I will limit myself to keeping it off on my computer and I’ve actually played ‘how long can I go without it’ games with myself and I pat myself on the back when I manage long stretches. That being said, I do enjoy it and nothing is as enjoyable to me when I can laugh along with my cousins in Ireland and England or friends around the world. I obviously also have done well maintaining it for blog promotion and the comments and support I have received from people and especially the artists I have written about speaks to the positive side of social media. So that is where I basically ‘live’ now with my social media. Attached, yet able to step away. I’m happy with that equation right now.

    1. Thank you! And I agree with you Robert. I see social media as something convenient and creative professionally or for hobbies. But, I’ve found it damaging in personal relationships. It’s destroyed quality of communication, it makes me miss out on info because I don’t keep up with *swearword* updates on Facebook and all in all, it has made interactions less authentic, online or offline. I used to enjoy interacting with people even 5 years ago, but now I’m prematurely cantankerous because I can’t stand their *swearwordagain* selfie sessions! But, the problem’s with me, right? Because everybody else is fine with it.

      1. No the problem is not just with you and I am definitely a cantankerous old man now and can shake my fist and say ‘back in my day’ with the best of them! Basically what I decided is I have interactions with the people who enjoy the same level of interaction on social media as I do. The kind who (if they are here in NY) I could say, lets go have a beer rather than trade messages on FB. To put it bluntly, anyone who lives for the selfie, and posts nothing but memes is not high on my list of people I want to interact with. Which speaks to your thought on destroying quality of communication. It is true. I think all we can do now is make the choice to quit completely, or limit the time. Right now the limiting time spent has helped me deal with it more.

      2. The “let’s have a drink” test definitely should work. It’s like the Bechdel test, except for social media. If you can have an in-person conversation without referring to your social media or documenting it for your social media, you have a winner, i.e.a meaningful relationship.

        I would love to be social media as far as personal relationships are concerned, but the idea of it does scare me.

      3. And that WOULD be a hard conversation to have, because inevitably it seems like one mentions something they saw on social media at some point. Which in that context makes my reliance it on it even more frightening even if I am trying to limit my time!

  2. Perhaps unsurprisingly Amrita, I was quite intrigued by your 80/20 meaningful information rule.
    I’d imagine 80% of my social media joy comes from 20% of the people I interact with as well. So I guess I subscribe to the quality over quantity theory. I try to figure out which 20% I find really energizing/interesting/entertaining and spend more time with them.
    Nice thought-provoking post as per usual, not just 80 or 20% of the time!

    1. Wow, a 100% success! Thank you very much!

      To be honest, I think I’m being a bit generous with assigning only 80% to all that is extraneous on social media. I recently watched a Ted Talk where it was mentioned that all social media is based on principles of slot machines in casinos. They’re programmed to be addictive, and some people at least find using them unsatisfying. I feel worried about how most of us are conducting our relationships using these. Taking a moment to compare those same relationships with how you conducted them pre-social media vs how you go about them now, it’s pretty clear that something’s lost there.

  3. I absolutely loved this article. Super well thought out and eloquent. I really liked the section where you talked about people’s use of letters in the past and how we are all too quick to mash the send button without proper forethought. Great piece, do you ever feature your writing with any other sites at all?

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