What brings people together better and faster than anything else in the world? No, not liquor. Food! Before the chaos, I’d see people with their families, friends, and significant others gathered at tables or sitting cozy in booths at restaurants. The restaurant atmosphere would be created to make room for storytelling, friendly sibling rivalry, laughter, and the happy birthday song. I would see tables covered with family style servings of all comfort foods and cell phones with the screen down. Then, I would see at least one person, head slightly tilted down, in a trance, scrolling. I was not close enough to see phone screens, but a safe bet can be made that a scroll was being done, had been done, or was about to be done, on a social media platform.
Now let’s leave the restaurant and go out into the world. With emphasis on social media, the scroll has continued. People can’t even walk in a straight line or watch their boundaries when approaching other people, because their phone has become their guide. People can’t even enjoy a good workout without scrolling. I see people walking outside, disregarding the natural art of a lake, the baby blue sky, picture perfect clouds, and the fuchsia flowers, heads, once again, titled down, scrolling. Before the chaos, people had already forgotten how to hold face to face conversations. The art of speaking in complete, full sentences, looking at people in the eye when you speak, is no longer held to a high standard.
The art of communication, speaking, and making interpersonal connections has been replaced by “likes” and commenting on a social media post, which has been labeled “engagement.” To follow “social distancing” guidelines, I’ve watched people go to great lengths to move dramatically away from each other. I’ve watched people lean their bodies in the opposite direction of the person they are speaking to, when they are in a position that requires talking!
While I was waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, the woman behind me ask me how I’ve been “handling all this.” We had a nice, albeit brief conversation. But it wasn’t her question that stood out. It was refreshing to know there are still people out there who aren’t afraid to speak. I bring that story up because I’ve heard it said, that during this time, people are on social media twice as much so, therefore, there’s more “engagement” (there’s that word again.) Is there?
I haven’t conducted my own numbers research and I don’t intend to. But let’s say that the “twice as much” is correct. So, before the chaos, people were struggling with interpersonal interactions and now we’re leaning to the side when, God forbid, we must talk!
There is the message that says this “more home time” moment can be used to have more conversations with our families and friends. For those living with family, significant other, roommates, kids, this as an opportunity to spend more time with them at home. Sure, people are spending more time with loved ones, but then they are going live on social media to show how they are spending more time; they are posting pictures to show they are spending more time. How are we really spending more time with our loved ones, if we stay on social media posting that we are spending more time?!
I believe things happen for a reason. What if one of the reasons was for everyone to get off social media? Everyone! I don’t believe this moment in the world was meant to draw us to social media but to draw us to ourselves. This is an opportunity for us to be present with ourselves and to answer questions for ourselves instead of going to social media for answers. It’s a time for us to direct our own thoughts and actions instead of depending on social media to tell us what to do next or how to stay productive.
What would happen if we all left social media today? We would be mentally present in our homes having real conversations. We would be so engaged with our loved ones that we would forget about our cell phones entirely. We would remember those books that we’ve always wanted to read or write. What would happen if we all got into the habit of limiting our social media use after this storm passes? We would remember how to communicate with each other again. We would learn how to make connections with people in real life. We would feel comfortable engaging with people in person again. We would prefer face to face sales transactions again.
After this storm passes, what if “liking” and commenting on a social media post was no longer called “engagement”, “serving”, or “building trust?” But was simply passed off as a mindless, fun game you play for 2 minutes?