The Daily Gamecock

Students should put down phones, make real friends

Rapid expansion of the technological development within the 21st century has given billions around the globe the ability to “plug in” to various mediums through various sources. According to a U.N. study, the number of people around the world who have access to a mobile phone outnumbers those who have access to a working toilet, by 2.5 billion people. The ability to connect the globe has allowed for ideas and thoughts to be shared and contemplated, leading to innovations and cultural revolutions that generally have benefited mankind. However, there is an impact in our daily lives that comes from being “plugged in.”

Many of us use social media in our everyday lives to receive daily news, information, encouragement and just about anything else we require in our lives. However, the ever-increasing amount of usage of social media in our lives can cause negative effects if not kept in check.

One problem that has arisen from being “connected” is a false sense of connection. Steven Strogatz of Cornell University said, “The distinction between genuine friends and acquaintances is becoming blurred. Users are spending time maintaining relationships with people they don’t really care about.” We all know one person who has 3,000-plus friends on Facebook and brags about how popular they are. But do they really have that many friends in real life?

As suggested by Strogatz, we can become caught in the trap of investing time and energy to maintain many meaningless relationships rather than building few genuine friendships. In times of need, what is going to be more beneficial, 40 people who like a depressing song lyric Facebook status or several close friends who are willing to lend a helping hand?

In conjunction with causing us to be “alone together,” social media can put a dent in our self-esteem and cause unhappiness. A study published by the University of Michigan has deemed Facebook the mirror and Twitter the megaphone of our lives. The study determined that a portion of college students and adults use social media for narcissistic purposes and to control the perception others have of them.

But what if those self-esteem-boosting endorphins aren’t met? Social media has the ability to undermine the way we feel about our lives. Feelings of envy from seeing how wonderful people portray their lives can cause feelings of misery and loneliness. Perhaps instead of sharing everything online, we could venture off into the real world and pick up new skills, develop hobbies and obtain new knowledge. Then maybe this would allow us to engage in meaningful friendships and develop new, “real” friendships.

Next time when walking around campus, notice the amount of people that seem disconnected from their surroundings because their eyes are firmly glued to a screen. It is quite amusing how many of those people will walk right into you because they didn’t notice you. If you are one of those people, why don’t you stop tweeting for a moment? Give a stranger a smile, who knows, they could become your best friend one day.