The current young generation will soon have grown up without ever knowing what it’s like to not have social media. They’re also growing up without a sense of how society was before social media came into play. Whether you use social media or not, it’s likely affected your life because it’s changed how people relate to one another – including you. While there are many good aspects of social media and the concept of bringing people together, there are also many negative changes it’s had on how we relate to one another.
I’ve spent a lot of time observing others and how social media has affected them online over time, and seen the problems it can create. For me personally, I’ve never been happier to be off of social media than the past year or so when I finally ditched Twitter for good. Twitter became toxic to me, and I found that I didn’t like the person I had to become in order to stay on it. It simply wasn’t worth the stress and distraction in order to relate to a bunch of randos on the Internet. Social media websites simply don’t deserve to have the power to change you, but they do. Getting back to the humanity of relationships is almost like waking up from a bad dream: you’d almost forgotten the goodness in what normal relationships with others (professional, friendships, etc.) feels like.
So at the risk of the next generation never knowing what it’s like to have a normal relationship with others, I’ve written down just a few of the things that are important in building friendships and other types of relationships – things social media seems to have endangered… at least, from the perspective of this old Gen-X’er. Writing all of this makes me really miss how people were before social media existed.
We weren’t hyper critical of one another. We realized everyone had flaws and accepted them without the need to point them out unless they were harming someone.
We didn’t feel the need to tell someone every time we felt they were wrong, nor did we need to interject corrections for insignificant details.
When we had disagreements, we talked it out rather than insulting one another’s intelligence or beliefs.
We didn’t rudely interrupt conversations that others were having amongst themselves – even if they were in public. Especially if we didn’t know the individual.
We minded our business.
We allowed others to be wrong because at some point, we would also likely be wrong.
We didn’t write one another off and abruptly walk away from a conversation, with either a stranger or friend, simply for having a difference of opinion.
We would generally treat people with respect and not call them racist or misogynistic names unless we wanted to get punched in the face or kneed in the groin, as one would deserve to be.
We showed empathy.
We didn’t act creepy.
We respected human dignity.
We picked up the phone to talk.
We didn’t stop being someone’s friend just because they bored us.
We didn’t thrust our controversial ideals down our friends’ throats or require they agree with us to stay friends.
We didn’t talk to robots.
Making jokes at the expense of others was frowned upon.
We definitely trolled people once in a while, but only people we knew would laugh at themselves afterward – and we never played the long game.
Gas-lighting others only showed signs of your own mental instability, not that of the victim.
If you needed more “proof” of something than everyone else, you were either incredibly smart or incredibly dumb – and it’s not the one you thought you were.
Rather than send someone a picture of our dinner, we would actually sit down to dinner with friends.
We took the time to form opinions and even more time to articulate our position and how we arrived at our conclusions.
We listened to the opinions of others in a conversation.
We validated the feelings of others, even if we didn’t understand them.
We communicated our genuine emotions to others, rather than point to pictures of cartoons having emotions.
When someone needed help, we would offer tangible help, rather than empty support. We would make time. We would check up on someone struggling and see how they’re doing.
We didn’t have to always get the last word.
We didn’t archive everything someone said so that we could go back and use it against them later.
We forgave missteps.
We cared about other people and did not always have to be the leading act in our own life. We served others.
We didn’t forget how to be human.