Why I Chose To Not Connect, In Order To Reconnect

By Kiara Kunnes, Staff Writer

   We scroll. We tap. We like. We post. This is social media in a nutshell.

   Today, about 94 percent of teens go online using a mobile device daily. Another 71 percent of teens use more than one social media network site, according to a study conducted during 2014 and 2015 by the Pew Research Center.

   I am not one of those teenagers who has multiple social media accounts, or even one account for that matter. There is nothing stopping me from documenting my life on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, VSCO, or any other such trending site or app. Instead it is a conscious decision, a choice that I have made to not take part in any form of social media.    

   Whenever I tell anyone I am not a member of social media I get a lot of different responses, ranging from “Good for you” to “How do you even survive?” Whatever the response, there are always two common elements to people’s responses: shock and curiosity.

   For the last couple of years, my typical response has become that I do not want to be involved in all the drama that comes along with it. While that is one factor that prevents me from joining social media, it is not truly what drives me away from these sites and applications.

   What really drives me away is what I have seen happen to my friends, family, peers, and even random people I pass by on the streets.

   I have watched friend after friend join social media, and I have seen many of them get sucked into an ever-so-massive “world” composed of mostly of pictures, comments, followers, and likes.

   While not everyone is all-consumed with this “world,” it is not rare for that to happen. While social media can connect people and do a lot of amazing things, most of the time it just disconnects us.

   Too many people are worried about constantly documenting every moment of their lives. “This is what I ate two days ago.” “This was my ‘outfit of the day’ yesterday.” “Oh, and I saw this really artsy sunrise this morning.” These are things people feel they need to share.

   People begin to forget the actual beauty of photos and just look for photo opportunities that will get them a boatload of likes. If one is constantly focusing on what will get them the most likes or followers, or just wants to always show everyone where they are or what they are doing, that person will miss out on their experiences and adventures.

   We don’t need to share every single moment of our lives. What we should be doing is living in the moment and embracing each of these moments with our senses, not our camera lenses.

   Even if we are not the ones constantly posting, there is pressure to see what is happening in other people’s lives, because if we don’t, we fear we will fall behind on something. Teenagers even engrain this fear into their schedule by checking social media as soon as they wake up in the morning, and they make sure it’s the last thing they check before they shut their eyes at night.

   Last year I saw this happening right in front of me, reminding me exactly why I avoid Snapchat, Instagram, and every other social networking site.

   I was a freshman, and my peers and I had just finished our very first final. Everyone in the class was finished, so everyone was talking to each other. People were learning about each other, and there was conversation about what was going on in their lives. At that moment we didn’t have our phones, but they were soon passed out. Suddenly, all of that vibrant conversation vanished. It was completely gone, and as I looked around that room I could see the same people who were talking earlier looking at social media.

   My peers were sucked into this world of scrolling, liking, and posting. Some of my classmates were looking at the profiles of people in different places in the world, and others were looking at the profiles of people in the very same room, instead of talking face-to-face.

   We aren’t able to and shouldn’t be able to shrink our lives into a 140-character tweet or a single Instagram post, yet somehow that is what we are trying to do.

   As humans, we need to socialize through more than just pictures and comments. We need eye contact and body language. A person’s Instagram profile cannot capture what would be said in a conversation with that person, nor can it provide a personal and human connection.

   Not to mention the fact that in many cases one’s online persona is very different from his or her real-life persona. This is partly because we will do anything for likes and followers. It’s become socially acceptable to lie and sugarcoat our lives so we can get the satisfaction of being ‘popular.’

    So many of us can’t let go. Far too many people crave the notifications that someone liked their post more than they actually crave a real conversation. Social media has become the drug of choice of the twenty-first century.

   If you look at the Instagram profiles of Acalanes students, most of them have extremely large amounts of followers. People claim to have a thousand friends, but how can one truly have so many?

   Snapchat has even made a game of their users’ friendships, giving them points for how many snaps are sent and received. Friendships are measured through streaks of contacting each other everyday and by how many pictures can be sent back and forth for a period of time. Most of the time the snaps that are sent back and forth are meaningless chatter. As a society, we’re beginning to accept these artificial friendships.

   We can’t stop technology and social media from existing, nor should we. However, I encourage you, if you have a social media account, to use it less, silence your phone more, and start living in the moment and the real world.

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