My heart breaks for humanity knowing that we have succumbed to coexist in two worlds both offline and online. And what I mean by this is our unhealthy dependency on social media for human connection. I hate the way we need the 'gram to feel connected. And the thing is before COVID-19, a healthy balance existed between online presence and reality. Now, not so much. Since the pandemic, our reliance on social media has become our daily norm. A temporary solution instantly became a reality and still is a reality today. And I am not sure if things will ever be the same.
The fact that we receive instant gratification from little red notifications is very telling. I, too, was guilty of being completely enamored and somewhat obsessed with an online presence. Likes, comments, DMs, reactions, and follows. It wasn't until a recent four-month social media break that I realized how much social media has changed human connection. I initially took a social media break to be more productive. I was and I have been. With all this masculine energy flowing through me, I'm out here slayin' my fourth-quarter goals. But then it got quiet—almost too quiet.
As the silence grew, I started to feel completely isolated and lonely.
In this moment, I started to question the impact social media has on human connection and relationships. It took my online absence for some friends to check on me or even remember that I existed. I mean, granted I was overly consistent with my social media posts, but online presence shouldn't be a prerequisite to express concern.
People assume if you're not frequently posting content or taking a break from social media that something is wrong. And it is also assumed because they see glimpses of your life through curated pictures that everything is OK. Is it just me or does anyone else see how backward this logic is?
I want to say by no means am I offended by this behavior. These are instances I have noticed and I am sure others have experienced too as we navigate the dynamics of human connection in a technologically advanced world.
The Dynamics of Friendship
First, let me just say that I am grateful for every single one of my online connections. It brings me so much joy that they have been a part of my journey. And I am even more grateful for those online connections that have turned into offline friendships. To meet those people in person and create real-life moments and memories has been simply beautiful. I'm a Sagittarius y'all—making new connections is what I do. I'm also one of those friends that will make every effort to check in or simply show up. Regardless, of if it's offline or online, it's just the way I'm wired.
With the overconsumption of social media, I would say the level of effort in friendships is affected, if not dead. And it doesn't matter if it's a new friend or a close friend. We have deprioritized human connection when it's one of the most basic needs. How?
The notion is if you can be seen, heard, celebrated, or valued online, then there is no need to connect with you offline. The norm has become if friends can communicate with you via likes, comments, and reactions, then there's no need to call or text.
But the reality is curated pictures cannot account for what people think or feel. Social media somehow has become a foundational element or the sole basis for friendship but the concept of friendship is built on so much more. A solid friendship requires a level of depth only human connection allows for and is irreplaceable. We are made to feel through the presence of each other.
Do we even realize that we are establishing friendships based on picturesque content and pre-planned captions that are designed to increase a following as opposed to real-life moments? I said this once, and I'll say it again: With social media, we are constantly paying attention to someone else's life instead of our own. However, I understand that friendships are harder to maintain in our 30s and 40s. I also understand that some of us are still recovering or healing from trauma or loss. I know that the majority of us are still trying to navigate what we consider to be a new normal on top of everyday life. And sometimes, we just don't have the energy to generally deal with people, too.
Therefore, social media has become a tool that allows us to keep up with the lives of our family, lifelong friends, new friends, and colleagues. Remember, the original intention of Instagram was to primarily share photos taken by mobile devices. But now within the last few years and the pandemic, Instagram has evolved to some next-level shit. Not only did we turn into a business, but we also turned the 'gram into a complete online world that we live in.
A Word About Social Media and the Dynamics of Dating
I have to admit, at first, I thought men sliding in my DMs, liking all my pictures, and heavy in my comments was hella cute. But now, not so much. We often complain about how men and women behave in the DMs and comments. However, in all honesty, we allowed this shit. We taught each other this behavior was acceptable. In the words of Henry Cloud, "You get what you tolerate." We set a standard that seems pretty low to me, so who are we to complain or say anything at all?
The reality is we've normalized sliding in the DMs to the point that some men don't know how to communicate let alone interact with women at all. There's no effort in this. We continue to reward men for the bare minimum and lack of effort. It's not to say that successful dating stories or relationships haven't started in the DM, because they have. Yet there is still a whole lot of fuckery going down in the DM.
I say all this to demonstrate how dating has changed with social media which was fueled by a pandemic.
Finding Balance with Social Media, Online Presence and Human Connection
I don't know if balance will ever be restored when it comes to human connection. The more technologically advanced we are as a society, I think we may continue to lose human connection. I personally have always enjoyed making in-person connections through the elements of presence. It's the energy for me. There is something about the energy and physical presence that pictures or words just cannot replace. I want to be caught up in moments and memories. And I want to be intoxicated with all feelings that come with it. This is what human connection is all about – the ability to have experiences that evoke feeling. We need eye contact, touch, laughter, and intimate conversations for true connection. It's imperative to our mental health. It's all the things that make us human.
Social media should not be a complete alternative for human connection, initiating a date, or maintaining friendships as we tend to overuse or abuse it, but the way this pandemic is going, social media is not going to let up.
We somehow redefined and reinforced human connection through social media. And for me, while I realize this is what our society has become, I don't have to play along with it either. I do think we should find a healthier balance in the way we use social media for human connection. It's hard to say what a healthy balance would look like as this balance could be different for everyone.
I would say it starts with recognizing some hard truths about ourselves and our society, using boundaries, and choosing not to accept certain acts or behaviors as our new normal.
The only thing we can do is find ways to keep the human connections alive. We need to continue to seek the type of human connections that are authentic, whole, worthy, and deserving more so offline than online.
Featured image by Getty Images