Welcome to part One of my Three part series discussing the phenomenon of social media and its affect on how we interact with one another both on a personal and cultural scale.
In this section we will be talking about Accessibility.
I love starting sentences with “Back in MY day” because it makes me feel like a senile old woman, and because it happens to be the name of my favorite Improv game.
Back in my day, if you wanted to know what was going on in someones life you had to either pick up the phone and call them, or physically drive over to their home and talk to them. I suppose you could also hope to run into them out in the real world as well. Point being, there was a certain amount of effort that had to be put into it.
So how did something like dating look Back in my day…
Let’s say you were at the grocery store, or church, or school, and you ran into someone who you felt an attraction for. If you wanted to get to know that person you would probably have to pluck up the courage to ask for their phone number, and then you would have to call their house and hope that they answered and not their crazy mother or homicidal father, and then you would ask them out, and then physically meet them somewhere, and make real conversation without the use of GIF and Emojis, or dick pics, and try to glean as much information as possible in the few hours you had together, and then you would take them home and wait for another opportunity to see them again, or talk on the phone.
Let’s compare that to how dating looks now…
You sit in the comfort of your own home ordering your groceries online. You are swiping through the latest dating app and you make a selection based off of a few photographs (which could be 10 years old), and a profile limited to 250 characters (which tells you nothing). This is where your Social Media Sleuthing Skills come into play. You scroll down to see if you have any mutual friends. Since you are only provided their first name, if you find a mutual Facebook friend you are then able to go into your friends account and pop that first name into their list of friends and see who comes up. Once they have been located on Facebook (depending on how locked down they keep their profile) you are then able to stalk photographs, posts, and interests. Based off of what you observe via Facebook, this could be as far as your interest goes. Maybe they posted something about Global Warming and you happen to think the whole thing is a hoax…game over.
Let’s pretend there are no mutual friends, and no way of doing any pregame Facebook stalking. Now you have to actually make the effort of sending a cute, funny, and/or clever opening line and hope that they choose to reply, which often they do not, which in turn makes you wonder why the hell they are even on this stupid app in the first place…but you digress. They respond to your message with messages of their own and you remark to yourself how cute, funny, and/or clever they seem over text. More often than not, this is as far as it ever goes. They will chat for a little while and then frankly disappear. No warning, no reason, just no response. Sometimes you are able to convince them to meet in person for coffee or a drink or something that doesn’t require more than an hour or so from their day. You meet up, you pray to God that they look like their pictures, and you quickly learn that they are a lot more cute, funny, and/or clever through text than they are in real life. Not always though. Sometimes there is a real connection and you decide to level up. Instead of talking through the app you exchange actual phone numbers and you agree to add one another on The Facebook so that you can both “like” everything that you each have posted for the last 3 months. Of course you are also going to check of all of the photos so you can play “Am I more attractive than the ex”, and you are going to make sure that they haven’t posted anything that you deem unattractive, or offensive.
After this point you will continue to communicate mostly through text until you see each other again. You will either jump quickly into some sort of physical or sexual relationship OR you will go out on maybe 1 or 2 more dates before you call it quits. Now when I say “call it quits” that is actually a very misleading phrase. For there will be no actual calling involved. There will be no text, no GIF, no emoji, just…silence. The kids call it “ghosting” isn’t that adorable? After the ghosting you may try and reach out to them, through text or Facebook, but to no avail. This is going to frustrate you because you know they know how to operate a cell phone and all other forms of communication. You know this because they had no problem doing it while they were still interested in you. The funny thing is, most of the time they won’t “unfriend” you from Facebook or block you from Snapchat. In fact, you may still get the occasional consolatory Snap or GIF, but it is never going to be like it was before.
The main difference between how it use to be then and how it is now, is that if someone took you on a couple of dates and then just stopped calling you, there wasn’t this physical and technological reminder of it in your face. The original ghosting had a lot more finality to it. And make no mistake, people ghosted before technology. Waaaaaayyyy way back it probably meant they just stopped “calling on you”, or they stopped writing 10 page letters. Humans being flaky is nothing new per say, but we can talk more about that later. The problem with technology now is that it’s just like salt in open wounds. She isn’t calling you back, but she is posting about how hard it is to find a “good guy.” He isn’t asking you out anymore, but there he is tagged in a photograph with another girl and now you are reaching crazy status because you are trying to look HER up on Facebook and see if she has posted anything about being in a new relationship.
It’s enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel.
Couple of things…First, I realize that I just focused on dating, and that there are many other kinds of relationships that are formed and maintained on social media. I could have just as easily used the example of how posting on someones wall has replaced sending them a get well card or a condolence casserole. I also realize that I focused primarily on Facebook and Snapchat, when there are many other social media platforms that people use to interact. Instagram is also very popular in the dating world. I have seen tons of guys post their Instagram accounts right in their introductions. Which makes you wonder…are you here to meet people or gain Instagram followers? Again, these are just some of the complexities of social media that make the waters of human interaction murky.
Whether it’s Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Tinder, Bumble, Pintrest, and so on, we have all become incredibly accessible to one another. On one hand, this is awesome because it is so freaking convenient and it means that we don’t have to try super hard to maintain superficial relationships with a lot of people. On the other it is really really shitty because it is freaking convenient and it means that we don’t have to try super hard to maintain superficial relationships with a lot of people. We can stalk an ex’s while simultaneously search for a new ex. All of this, by the way, leads directly into the next posts topic which is Disposability. Stay tuned for that.
Here is something else to consider.
Say you were dating someone and they broke up with you. Maybe you got the courtesy of a phone call or text message, or maybe you got ghosted. Either way, I’m sure you have heard the expression, “I can’t miss you if you don’t leave”? There is something to be said about allowing someone who has “passed” on you retain access to your life. I know a lot of people think that maybe if their ex sees them posting all of this really fun and exciting stuff they are doing, and how totally unaffected they are by the rejection, and “can’t you see how happy I am in all of my Snapchats which totally means that I don’t miss you at all meanwhile I am pretty much dying a little more inside every day”………….Yeah…that’s a real thing….They believe that if they can stay in sight then they will stay in mind, and if they stay in mind then someday the person who has rejected them will suddenly realize what they are missing out on and beg them for another chance. I’m not going to say this doesn’t happen…I’m just saying that it’s probably pretty rare, AND even if that could work, there is also a strong possibility that all you are doing is giving that person what they really want which is to keep tacit tabs on your life .
I have tried to come up with a good analogy or metaphor for this, but all I can think of is some sort of harem situation where even though you ain’t been picked in a long while for the breeding you continue to stick around under the watchful eye of the Alpha as he screws every deer but you. As hard as it is, and trust me, I suck at this just as much as anyone, I think that there is probably something beneficial about the finality and closure that comes from cutting off the accessibility of yourself from other people. Maybe I’m wrong. I do know though that we as humans are extremely voyeuristic when it comes to other peoples lives. I also know that primates in general try to squeeze the most reward out of the least amount of effort. Enter social media. All the access with none of the effort. We don’t call anymore because we don’t HAVE to. We don’t show up anymore because we don’t HAVE to. We don’t try anymore because we don’t HAVE to. And really, I hope that above all, that is the take away from all of these posts.
I don’t believe most people are malicious. I don’t think most men are jerks, or most women are flakes. I DO believe that we underestimate the primate inside of all of us and its need to be as lazy and yet self-serving as possible, but even then, I don’t attach any moral judgement to it. It’s annoying as hell, particularly when you recognize it, try to do differently, and then realize you are still the only one who seems to be trying…but really…you know…humans.
My purpose in writing these have less to do with any notion that I am going to change human behavior, but rather to bring awareness to it. If we understand human nature, and we see the affects that social media has on it, then perhaps we can begin to adapt or find some sort of middle ground. Or perhaps the entire population will lose their ability to interact in any sort of intimate way and this will have marked the beginning of the end of our species. Probably not. I mean…Tinder will make sure that the population continues to grow at least.
I want to know what you think. Are we too accessible? Is that a bad thing? What has been your experience? Feel free to leave a comment below.