Suddenly there was that feeling again; being locked into an online existence. We often communicate with each other via social media. We meet in an artificial, digital environment and try to show how we are doing with beautiful pictures and sweet talk. I often find the images that are created in this way very rosy though I even participate in them sometimes. To be honest, I don't feel the need to share arguments and setbacks on social media. I like to share sensitive topics during an actual meeting.Sitting next to or opposite each other and telling how we are really doing while looking at each other and reading each other's body language. For me it is precisely those non-verbal signals that tell more than words. It is the body language, such as the glance, the moving or static pupils, crying, or wiping away a tear, or a subtly perceptible color and structure of the skin. Each variant has a meaning and therefore we can sense and question each other, and connect with each other. That body language cannot be digitized, no, not even with a cam.
Behind that feeling of being trapped in an online existence is actually my desire to meet people more often instead of interacting through social media. The existence before “Social media” came along, that made us forget important social skills, such as having a good conversation and looking at each other regularly, having time for each other, listening carefully to each other, being patient and polite, letting someone finish talking, and so on. Although I have had my desire already for years, I feel that this desire is getting stronger. I have a minimalist lifestyle that means I hardly own anything. Although that is a fantastic feeling, it is also becoming increasingly clear to me that social skills can also be minimized, in the absence of practice.
Do I therefore only want physical meetings and renounce all social media? The idea of shutting down my online existence completely can make me shudder and relax at the same time. Shuddering because I also see advantages in digital communication and relaxed because then I no longer have to experience the pressure of participating in publishing and responding to other people's publications. Be that as it may, the actual encounters remain the most important social binder for me.
The use of social media impoverishes my offline existence as a human being. In recent years I have experienced a growing reluctance to connect with other people through face-to-face encounters, which I used to do so easily and willingly earlier in my life. Now I wonder who I want to connect with and who finds it interesting to meet me. Was my engagement to Szilvia partly due to that reluctance to connect with others through actual encounters? Did I perhaps think that if I connected permanently with one person, I wouldn't have to do the same with more people? And why didn't I recently play guitar and sing on the bus with a young Hungarian man? I got the chance and I felt the desire. I used to sing and play the guitar without a doubt. Still, I didn't try now. What a missed opportunity! A week or so ago I met a man in Valletta who had written “HUG?” on a piece of cardboard. He handed out hugs to anyone who wanted it. What a great idea and why didn't I come up with that myself and didn't start doing it myself. It suits me so well.
I also experience more and more that it has become more difficult to meet people I know. Everyone is so busy and the attention span for a topic of conversation is getting shorter and shorter. Meeting each other takes a lot more time than a conversation via social media. An online chat takes a few minutes on average, sometimes even less than a minute. But if you want to meet, you start to arrange a moment. Then you go to the meeting place and take the time to do something or talk about something with each other. That can take hours. But it can also be brief encounters with a stranger. Let's talk about life. I love that and I'm starting to realize that I'm missing the actual encounters more and more. Lovely talks together. I seek connection with other people by getting together with acquaintances and addressing strangers. I want to listen and talk about what lives in us. Facebook started as a platform to make connections, but that is no longer the main goal. Everything is aimed at getting as much attention as possible through content. The users have become products of the big tech companies. They collect information about you in order to send you targeted advertisements.
I experience that the frequent use of social media has a bad influence on our social skills. It individualizes us and we are less inclined to form strong, long-lasting connections with others. In addition, the use of social media is highly addictive. I am sometimes surprised that there are no rules for the use of social media, especially for young people. After all, under the age of eighteen we are not allowed to buy tobacco and alcohol and not make large purchases without the permission of our parents. We are also not allowed to go to the casino yet. But we do get a telephone when we are about twelve years old and sometimes even earlier. My impression is that the adolescents do not learn to perform a conversation well, because the majority of communication takes place digital. I think something is wrong there.
Anyway, I really want more meetings with friends, acquaintances and strangers passing by. I have lived in Malta for almost six years and only have my partner and one acquaintance whom I meet regularly. I think that's a meager score and I'm going to do something about it......... Who wants to help me?
© Markant TrefMij / May 2023