My parents love poking fun at my generation of 20-somethings. They say we lack social skills. They observe we walk around constantly looking down at our phones and never start any conversations with people around us.
Technology Does Make Us Less Social
But is it true? As more and more technology enters our lives, primarily social media, are we actually becoming less and less social?
In some ways, social media brings us closer. Twitter allows me to know people on the other side of the world. Facebook lets me stay in contact with friends from high school and college. And the whole blogosphere enables me to converse with like-minded people.
But it’s also driven us apart.
I write this sentence in a coffee shop. As people enter and exit, they look down at their phones, oblivious to anyone else. When I was in college, it was difficult to find people who’d want to go out at night; they stayed in and surfed Facebook.
How many people know their neighbors anymore?
Are We Becoming More Or Less Social?
I don’t think it’s either.
I think the meaning of “social” is shifting. It’s always shifted. Our entire social network once existed of only the people within our village. When modes of transportation were invented, our social circle expanded. When the telephone came along, it expanded further.
With each expansion, the geographic distribution of our social circle shifted. More people in our social circles lived further away, which meant our day to day physical and social interactions decreased.
What Does This Shift Mean?
Just because someone isn’t talking to someone within arm’s length doesn’t mean they’re not social.
Before I embraced technology, I was much less social. I was afraid of meeting new people. My social circle was stagnant and never grew.
As I embraced social media, I saw my social circle expand. And with that, my social skills increased. I became more social. I don’t think I’m alone.
What Do You Think?
Are we becoming more or less social, or is society shifting?