Are you letting machines take over your life? Find out what to do about it.
Many of you will have seen (or perhaps heard) the famous Einstein quote on technology.
As the genius’s prediction has proven to be fairly accurate thus far, it may appear all doom and gloom for the future of Manchester socialising. But is there hope? Hmmm…maybe!
The irony is that you probably saw that very quote on your Facebook timeline while scrolling on your mobile phone, ignoring your friends in the same room who were sat right next to you doing the exact same thing.
Einstein’s “Idiots” comment may seem harsh, but then who am I to tell Einstein who is or isn’t a idiot?
Improve Your Social Skills author David Wendler weighed in:
“I think social media has made us more connected, but made the connection more superficial. Facebook allows you to stay updated on the lives of your childhood friends or your neighbours from years past, but there’s a difference between being updated and being intimate. Instead of spending time making real-world connections, people spend their time on social media, and that leads to them feeling less connected overall”.
Of course, it isn’t just our social lives that have been dominated by technology. Many aspects of our daily routine have fallen foul to the machine.
Even exercise has been made convenient, thanks to the Wii. Now we can even play tennis without leaving home (15-love to technology).
Think back to those occasions when we played board games with family and friends, and dare I say it, even visited the outside world once in a while.
Now video games rule, as we often spend time interacting with people whom we never see (except, of course, if we add them as a “friend” on Facebook, in which case, we at least get to see their face).
Does our social life in Manchester now consist of taking a selfie on the way home and posting it online so our other Manchester friends can comment on it?
Did you just embarrass yourself online?
It could be argued that social media makes life easier. And in some ways, that’s true: you don’t need to bother putting on your new dress for a night of socialising in Manchester. Instead, you can simply opt for pyjamas and ice-cream.
However, it isn’t as relaxing as all that. Studies have shown that we get anxious as to how we present ourselves through social media.
- “Will they think I’m weird if I post this?”.
- “Oh no, I’d better delete that comment on Sarah’s photo, she may take it the wrong way”.
- “I want to show off my bikini body to my friends but what will my boss think?”.
And then, of course, there is the dreaded ‘seen’ tick, which indicates when your message has been read. It’s only dreaded, of course, when that person hasn’t replied immediately. And I do mean immediately. If they haven’t replied within seconds, is it that we have typed something utterly ridiculous? “Oh no, what if they don’t reply?”.
And what about those who we have sent a friend request to? Anxiety over who is and who isn’t following you back can lead to awkwardness the next time we meet them in real life.
In some cases, the visibility of our thoughts and feelings on social media can cause yet more social tension. We sometimes find ourselves shocked at our friend’s political, or even sporting, alliances, and are at that point, somewhat less inclined to want to socialise with them. Whereas, in an actual conversation, perhaps we would take the time to listen and better understand their view.
When exactly did our social lives get sucked into cyberspace?
Remember Friends United? How about MySpace? Well, Facebook arrived in 2004, combining the strengths of those two platforms and has dominated social media ever since.
Twitter made its debut in 2006 for those with short attention spans, and Instagram took the concept of “selfie” to a whole new level.
With FourSquare, Snapchat, and countless other social media phenomenons seeming to be cropping up all of the time, the opportunity to socialise online is greater than it has ever been.
Slaves to media
What is the difference between your Manchester social life and social media? It’s media, of course. Doh! And media has been ruling our attention long before Facebook.
After all, we live in a media-driven world. Think about it? What do you talk about with your friends? What happened in Corrie the night before? How about Eastenders? And now, it seems that reality TV has taken over much of our media consumption.
social media is to socialising as reality TV is to reality.
— Nahko (@NahkoBear) February 22, 2016
Facebook meal for one
“Our society today is not moving around anymore. We live in a box life – box breakfast, box car, box office, box lunch, box music, type and message in a box and then finally go home to your box house and watch the box TV.” Tony Robbins
Think back to those moments in your life you treasure the most. Were those moments shared with friends and family or were they at home updating your Facebook status?
Now think about that night you spent at home with your mobile device and a microwave meal for one. Sure, it was easy. But it’s probably a night you will forget in a hurry.
What do we have to talk about any more at work on Monday morning? You know what David had for dinner and you have seen all of Rachel’s holiday snaps. And there’s no point in bringing them up in conversation because you already did that when you commented on them on Facebook.
A 2013 study published by the Public Library of Science, conducted by Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and Philippe Verduyn of Leuven University in Belgium, revealed that the more time someone spends on Facebook, the less satisfaction that person has with life.
An article from The Economist commented on the findings:
“Those who used Facebook a lot were more likely to report a decline in satisfaction than those who visited the site infrequently. In contrast, there was a positive association between the amount of direct social contact a volunteer had and how positive he felt. In other words, the more volunteers socialised in the real world, the more positive they reported feeling the next time they filled in the questionnaire”.
A separate study conducted by strategic insight agency Opinium revealed that one in five people said they felt depressed when seeing their friends’ lives on social media.
The alarming statistic equates to 6.9 million people constantly comparing themselves to their friends’ posts, and presenting their own lives through frequent updates.
How does social media affect your social skills?
If, as the study revealed, your mood is adversely affected by an overdose of social media, it’s hard to be at your best, socially.
As a socially awkward generation, it may then be time to think about updating our social skills, rather than our social status.
Stephen Sutherland, founder of Manchester’s social and adventure network, Social Circle, has seen how the advent of social media has affected socialising in Manchester and has vowed to ensure we don’t lose grip on our social reality altogether.
“It’s harder than it once was to reach out to people, as more and more have opted for a lifestyle of TV and Facebook. I repeatedly push the message that we only have one life and that we need to live it to the full”.
It’s not all bad, however, as Social Circle has an increasing membership base, with more and more people looking to inject some zest into their social life; a possible sign of a backlash to an online world.
David Wendler, who also runs improveyoursocialskills.com
“I think we’re already seeing a movement of people wanting to experience more in-person connections and distance themselves from social media. I’ve read about “unplugging” camps where people pay money to live in a cabin for a few days without any access to digital devices, or social events where people are required to leave their phones behind. It’s still in the early stages, but as people become more and more aware of some of the downsides of the digital age, they’ll discover new ways of reconnecting with each other”.
So, is social media all bad?
The next time you meet someone, and they say ‘Find me on Facebook’, why not ask for their number instead? Go on, I dare you!
Social media a useful tool. It’s a great way to reconnect with old friends. It’s an easy way to create events and arrange get-togethers. And it’s far easier to keep in touch with friends and family living on the other side of the world. Rewind about 20 years, and the choice was either to send a message by the painfully slow snail mail system or commit your life savings to British Telecom.
But like any other technology, it makes us lazy. And when it comes to less socialising, that presents a real danger.
“I think people need offline opportunities to connect with each other. There’s no substitute for face-to-face time with another human being. But we need to go beyond just bringing people together. In chemistry, there’s this idea of a catalyst, which is a substance that facilitates a chemical reaction. We need to find the catalysts that facilitate human connection — look for the experiences or activities that bring people together, and invite people into them. In other words, we need to ask “Can we discover (or rediscover) the activities that bring people together, or the experiences that connect people when they are shared?” The more we discover and spread connection catalysts, the more we will be able to combat the superficiality of social media and truly bring people closer together”.
If you like your socialising in Manchester to be more about meeting people rather than poking them online (do people even do that any more?), Social Circle affords you that opportunity through its 150+ events per month.
Whether you are introverted and need some gentle encouragement, or you just can’t get enough of meeting new people, Social Circle is the perfect antidote to the social machine.