With our documentary TalkSmart! movie coming out soon, which is about how cellphones changed the lives of children and how they should use them more smartly, it seemed like the perfect time to hit the streets and hear people’s experiences with cell phones and social media invading social settings i.e. parties, dates, dinner parties, concerts, etc. Instead of focusing on children who have grown up being exposed to consistently using electronic devices and their constant presence, this piece focuses more on teenagers and young adults ranging from age of 17-21 simply because this is approximately the age group that is electronically adept, but can also remember a time when a lot of these current gadgets and outlets didn’t exist.
It doesn’t take a sociologist or behavioral psychologist to realize that cell phones and social media have nuzzled their way into all of life’s activities. One of the most prominent changes they have made is the way in which people interact with one another in public settings. In a 2001 study, Youngs showed that a person’s attitude towards public mobile phone use becomes more accepting with increased use. Because people use their phones so frequently these days, it has blurred the line between where/when it’s okay to use them and where/when it is not. People are more comfortable with using their phones in settings where they were once banned, and its use in said settings would have been deemed rude and offensive. One of those places is dinner parties– once known as a socializing event has become plagued with cell phones. “Phones have played a huge part in how we interact with people now because no matter what you’re doing, people have to upload it instantly” Sylvie Fried, 18, incoming freshman at Smith College, said. This article talks about dinner hosts who struggle with disengaging their stubborn guests from their phones. It gives tips on how to redirect that attention and energy towards the actual event and the people present.
But it doesn’t stop there. Many stories reveal that people are struggling with cell phone use during dates too! Whether it be between couples, two people that are trying to get to know each other, or a group of friends, we just can’t just can’t stay away from our phones. Whether we’re compulsively checking our text messages and/or emails or putting a photo on our meals, which we then size up to the other dozen pictures of meals on our feeds, the phone is as much a part of the date as the people, if not more. Fried talked about her group of friends combat excessively using their phones while hanging out. “Sometimes we reach this point where we’re all sitting somewhere and we’re all on our phones,” Sylvie said. “That’s when we decide it’s time to put them away and regroup.”
Another social app that has been making its way to the forefront to document social outings is Snapchat. Anyone who has a snapchat knows that one person who has a 300 second story every time they go out. It makes you question if they’re even engaged in anything that’s going on. “Whenever I see someone with a 200 second or more story,” Shannon Hanna, 17, senior at LaGuardia High School, said. “I think ‘Wow, this person must be really bored.” I’ll admit, Snapchat is a cool app to use to record when you’re out having fun, but it’s definitely not second nature to me to record every little thing that happens. “The idea that we feel the compelling need to update where we are and show people what we’re doing is sort of troubling,” Daniella Brito, 18, an incoming freshman at Oberlin College said. “But it also makes for a interesting experience altogether.” Not only is there a sense of needing to constantly update social apps with what you’re doing, there’s also a tinge of competitiveness to it. “It’s like the battle of the cool kids. Who’s at the coolest place? Who’s doing the most?,” Brito said. “And it leads to so many complexes.” Fried chimed in, “ And the strangest part of it all is that we’re all so aware and critical of it and yet everyone still does it no matter what.” Hanna attributed this to what could be called new age technological peer pressure. “It puts a lot of pressure on what you’re doing socially like you can never just sort of stay away,” she said. “It’s like you’re tryna shape people’s perspective and make them have a positive expectation of you so they can think that you’re cooler.”
Fried shared the moment where she realized she wasn’t the only person that was trying to play it cool for social media. “I always feel jealous on Instagram like everyone has a cooler life than me, but then I realize that people come up to me and they’re like ‘Your instagram posts are so cool and I’m always so jealous of what you’re doing,’” Fried recalled. “And then I realized that everyone’s social media presence is totally curated to make them seem like they’re having more fun than they actually.”
It’s clear that we all want to depict a cool and exciting life for our friends to see, and that’s expected because who doesn’t want to interesting? But it starts to become a problem when the only thing that’s cool about is your social media accounts because so much energy and time is invested into creating a facade instead of actively engaging with what’s happening. The best thing to do is to create rules and guidelines for yourself. Do a self evaluation and actively think how your social media presence compares to your real life presence. If you’re interacting more with your phone rather than the people you’re with, it’s time to cut back. “It’s okay to snap a quick photo of something,” Fried said. “But when you’re not actually living in that moment of whatever you’re doing, it’s problematic.”
Shamecha Marie Lywood