I got my first smartphone at the ripe age of 14. Since then, barely a day has gone by in which I haven’t texted, tweeted, posted, friended, liked, called, vlogged, snapped, yakked, commented or otherwise interacted with my digital peers.
My life can be effectively tracked through the portal of social media.
As a member of the first generation to grow up surrounded by social media, I have experienced countless internet interactions. My conclusion: Social media has the potential to grow meaningful relationships, but living vicariously through digital interactions lacks long-lasting bonds that can only be built by physical interaction.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that at least 50 percent of communication is nonverbal. At best, communication through digital applications can achieve only half the potency of a spoken conversation. Interactions that use the internet as an intermediary are doomed from the onset to be insincere. It is difficult, if not impossible, to share the depth of the emotions we are feeling without facial expression and tones.
In short, social media does not connect people. Instead, users are typically left feeling more alienated and subpar after scrolling through their Instagram or Facebook feed. If you don’t believe me, consider this: When was the last time you walked away from an hour of Facebooking and thought, “Wow, I feel truly connected with my friends?”
To connect is to understand another person. It is to understand their strengths but also their weaknesses. Social media is good at showing a person’s strengths. But it’s atrocious at revealing a person’s weakness – a vital component in human connections.
Weakness, not strength, is what allows us to connect with others. On social media, imperfections are nearly non-existent. High school Twitter feeds and Snapchat stories are consistently full of smiles, parties, beach vacations and weekend shenanigans. Rarely, if ever, do social media posts display late-night study sessions, family arguments or bad days.
All too often, interactions through social media are a chance for both parties to demonstrate their wit, looks and self-assurance. Each carefully posed photo and meticulously crafted comment is aimed at making the user seem more friendly and relatable.
It’s a farce. One that I, along with my peers, buy into every time we post, comment, like, share, tweet or otherwise interact with other humans through the internet.
In reality, I am distancing myself from the relationships I hope to make. My online interactions lack the necessary elements that truly allow people to connect: depth in the form of facial expressions, body language and weaknesses.
Despite its basic inferiority to physical interaction, social media has become extremely popular as a medium of communication. Since I left middle school, it has become common for young children to be given smartphones in sixth, fifth, and even fourth grade. The argument for this early adoption of digital devices is ease of communication.
Although smartphones do make communication easier, they also come with a connection to the digital world. Instead of playing and learning through experiences, children given access to social media will spend hours developing and maintaining their social brand.
I urge parents to wait, as mine did, to distribute smartphones to their young ones. Regardless of initial rules and regulations, giving a child a smartphone is giving him or her an all-access pass to social media.
Paxton Scott is head online editor at El Diablo, the Durango High School student newspaper. His parents are Don Scott and Dr. Cecile Fraley of Durango.