Engaging with people

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It is hard to remember what life was like before laptops were in our laps, cell phones were in our hands and “Google” was a mainstream word. Technology and media are here to stay, whether we like it or not. It is accurate to say that media has made life easier in a multitude of ways. However, has society succumbed to the convenience of and addiction to media to the point that it harms the engagement of meaningful relationships?
According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘engage’ means “to hold the attention of” or “to do or take part in.” Therefore, are we engaging with media, or has it just become mindless scrolling? The majority of media users would most likely agree that the first thing they do when they wake up is grab their phone and start scrolling. It is not something that most users have to even think about, because it has become a part of their morning routines as well as drinking coffee and brushing teeth.
Many opponents of the social media craze believe that people are not really engaging with friends and family when communicating via text message or tagging/posting on social media. For the most part, I do not believe that people are really engaged with one another while communicating through social media sites, such as Facebook or Instagram. Media users are not truly communicating with another person through the ‘like’ button. Some people are more used to seeing their friend’s Bitmoji than their actual face.
Too often at social events, people are busy communicating through social media rather than interacting with the people around them.
The media has not only affected interpersonal communication, but attention spans as well.
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation, smiling and nodding, yet not really knowing what is going on? Instead, have you been thinking about what you will name your future labradoodle and four kids or some other topic unrelated to the conversation?
You are not alone. A recent study has shown that since the digital revolution, it has become increasingly more difficult for people to fight off distractions. Microsoft Corp. uncovered that the average attention span has dropped from twelve to eight seconds since 2000.
At the first sign of an awkward silence, many people instinctively fumble for their phones to avoid silence’s piercing scream.
According to a survey by Time, 77 percent of people between the ages of 18-24 said “when nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone.”
Unfortunately, it has become rare to see people sitting down for a meal together without their eyes glued to a screen. One time, an elderly couple paid for my meal, as well as my mom’s, when they noticed that we were engaging in actual conversation without the use of our phones while at a restaurant.
Afterward, I found it upsetting that simply enjoying my mom’s company compelled total strangers to pay for our food. It has become dangerously normal for people to sit down for a meal together, rarely averting their eyes from their screens to engage with the living, breathing being across from them.
While technology has proven itself in our society and has many advantages, it could be causing long-term damage in the way people build and maintain relationships with one another. Like anything in life, there must be a balance. Media consumers can maintain this balance by being mindful of what type of media they consume as well as how much they consume, all while balancing it with human interactions. In the end, relationships with living, breathing human beings are what connect us and truly enriches our lives in profound and meaningful ways.

Author: The Bells Staff

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