www.whyville.net May 18, 2014 Weekly Issue

Senior Times Writer

Accidental Experiment: Friendless and Social Media

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We are all extremely attached to social media. There, I said it. And I will say it again: we are all extremely attached to social media. What bothers me the most is that I never see people meeting in coffee shops any more; and if people go to coffee shops, their MacBook air, pro, god-knows-what-else is always tagging along (this doesn't apply exclusively to Apple users; PC users are also equally to blame). People do not stop on the street to talk to their neighbors. People are afraid to talk loudly on the bus, opting to scroll through Twitter instead.

In fact, if you strike up a conversation on the bus, people start giving you strange looks and move seats. When an individual is crossing a street and there are cars stopped at a red light, do you notice that the individual looks at their phone the entire time? I see this very often. It's as if the phone is the companion that the individual needs by their side at all times in order to justify and reassure others of their popularity; of their conformity; of their belonging. The art of conversation is slowly dying away - that is evident; however, something intriguing is happening.

Involuntarily, I have conducted a social experiment that - minus the confounding variables that I did not think to control at the time the experiment took place - has been very thought-provoking. Instead of telling you the results right away, I will explain to you the premise of my experiment and how it came to be.

Once upon a time, I had two Twitter accounts. Then something happened to my friend's Twitter account and the school got involved. The end result was a big, giant puddle of mess. I ended up deleting my Twitters because I realized how easily employers can - and will - use your youthful stupidity and ignorance against you. This, evidently, can impede a lot of goals. Consequently, I decided to delete everything that belongs under the umbrella term "social media". Not only was my iPhone much less cluttered with notifications and apps, but something interesting started to occur a few weeks later.

Suddenly, I felt lonely. It hit me hard as it was a typhoon of awareness hitting my consciousness. I started to feel friendless and alone. In my last year in high school, I would look around me at all of my peers and think, 'Wow, I am not friends with anyone but one person.' This started to consume my thoughts. It's important to note that I wasn't alarmed by my lack of popularity, but rather it was my lack of desire to make more friends that startled me. Even so, I was feeling lonely. Suddenly, people knew things earlier than I did: things like Student Council election dates and winners, universal news, and even local news. I started to feel like I was out of the loop; I felt like I was detached from the rest of my peers. It was an interesting feeling to feel.

I have a friend - let's call her Joanne - that is in the same situation; Joanne has only one best friend that she spends time with. Unlike me, though, Joanne has Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and Tumbler and an iPhone with unlimited data (you do the math). She is immersed in social media and relies on it often. I find that while Joanne is aware of her lack of intimate relationships with others, she does not care. Unlike me, she's fulfilled going home and reading others' tweets, almost feeling connected to the other person through cyberspace. Unlike me, when she reads a celebrity's tweet or likes an Instagram post, she either sympathizes with them or feels like she is a part of their lives in some minuscule and unimportant way. And unlike me, she feels less lonely.

Now comes the controversial part. Now comes the question that furthers my accidental experiment. In a world dominated by social media, does the absence of social media in an individual's life leave a negative impact? In this crazy, intertwined, and connected world we live in, can an individual feel lonely without social media?

Ultimately, should we all just get off our butts, go meet people in a cafe, spark up conversations on buses, and cross a street with our hands in our pockets, heads looking up, and confident smiles on our faces?


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