Quick thoughts on tech and social media

Eighteen Years Into the 21st Century:  A Quick Look at Social Media and Technology

With the rise of smartphones, data plans, GPS, apps, and Uber, came Uber/Lyft pool—an incredibly cheap rideshare system whereby your driver picks up complete strangers along your route to share the cost of the ride. I use Uber pool to and from DC quite often, and have had a range of experiences. One thing during rideshare that I’ve noticed is that people had to make up a new social protocol; one that takes form in the excessive use of a mobile device.  In fact, this is how many riders make the ride less uncomfortable in in a world where silence—even for a moment within a conversation—is filled by verbal pauses and “ums”.

In my experience, Uber pool rides have been the same self-reflecting quietness, or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/email/Snapchat scroll while listening to music/podcast, that eats away at your data, battery, and life. It is fascinating that you know the name of the people in the car from the Uber app, and even know where they live, but in many cases fail to mutter a hello or goodbye. Everyone is either so focused or uncomfortable that they lock themselves into a bubble of messaging, email catchups, and a forced social media presence rather than interact with the real people sharing the same time and space in a climate-controlled luxury ride. If there is an attempt of small talk or acknowledgment of the other passengers, the peace is interrupted for a moment—until the norm of self-inflicting quietness and personal thought is where everyone once again finds themselves.

This realization is just one of the many social norms that have come about since the rise of apps, social media, and a digitally connected world.  Since September, I’ve deleted the two social media platforms I spent the most time on—Facebook and Instagram.  My immediate concerns were: 1) will I still get invited to social gatherings, since it would be inconvenient to have to text or email me separately? 2) will people simply forget about me if my face and my thoughts are not resurfacing in people’s conscious? 3) how will I get blogs/updates to my life out without any social media?  I can say that thus far, I have been left out of parties, had difficulty sharing things of interest, and undoubtedly, have been forgotten by many.  But in a world where we are creating new social norms at an unprecedented rate, for example, the rideshare, we need to think about how much these new social norms are quite contrarily, becoming non-social norms.

We need to take a step back and think about the percentage of socially active vs. social media active we are in a day, and how much we are exercising one of our most important human strengths—the power of human to human interaction.  And with the vested interest in Artificial Intelligence on the rise, we are entering an interesting, yet terrifying unchartered territory with a slew of unknown unintended consequences.  I am by no means anti-tech and am grateful and excited for this move forward, but am also wary of the catch-up game we are playing with our ancient brains.  Technology and social media has led to many advancements and improvements to quality of life, as well as a significant, potentially irreversible human change—a change in which we are only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding.