Are you letting machines take over your life? Find out what to do about it
Many of you will 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 it on your Facebook timeline, whilst browsing on your mobile phone, ignoring your friends in the same room, whilst they were sat 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? Whilst I’ve never handed out IQ tests in that scenario, I have certainly observed its lack of social interaction.
David Wendler, authour of Improve Your Social Skills, said:
“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 neighbors 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 given an easy route thanks to the Wii. Now we can even play tennis without leaving home (15-love to technology). Video games is another example.
Think back to those occasions when we played board games with family and friends, and dare I say it, even visited outside once in a while.
But now video games rule, where 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 your other Manchester friends can comment on it?
Did you just embarrass yourself online?
It could be argued that social media makes life easier in that you can get by on minimal effort. 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 then 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?”.
At least in the days of old-style mobile phones, when you were waiting for someone to reply to your text, you could convince yourself that your message had not yet been read.
And what about those who we have sent a friend request to ? Anxiety over who’s following you back leads to awkwardness when you meet them face-to-face again.
Of course, in some cases, it may be that we decide we don’t like someone else. 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 to them 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, combined the strengths of those two platforms and has dominated as the no.1 social network ever since.
Twitter made its debut in 2006 for those with short-attention spans and Instagram took the concept of the “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.
We live in a media-driven world. Think about it? What do you talk about with your friends? Corrie? Eastenders? The latest revelation from the Daily Mail? And now, it seems, 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 the moments in your life that you treasure the most. Are those with friends and family or are they at home updating your Facebook status? Think of family holidays or weekends away with friends, all those Friday and Saturday nights.
Now think about that night you spent in with your mobile phone 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 it isn’t as if you can talk about them because you already did that when you commented on them on Facebook.
I guess you have nothing else to talk about until when you get home that evening and see their latest updates.
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 he has with life.
An article from The Economist discussed 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 fine people said that they felt depressed when seeing their friends’ lives on social media.
The alarming statistic equates to an 6.9mn 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 showed proved, 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 that we don’t lose grip on a 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 we need to live it to the full and I will keep on pushing that message as long as Social Circle exists.”
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 and say ‘Find me on Facebook’, why not ask for their number instead? Go on, I dare you!
It’s 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 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 or commit your life savings to British Telecom.
But like any 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 than poking them (do people even do that any more?), Social Circle afford you that opportunity with 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, give Social Circle a try.