Physical people are better than the ones on the screen

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

“Pics or it didn’t happen.”

This small statement has unknowingly become a mantra in our world, engraining itself into every event in our lives whether we realize it or not. Sometimes it’s a good thing, capturing memories and people we love so that we can look back on them and smile. But sometimes it seems to have a more negative connotation, a self-serving purpose that steals the authenticity from a relationship or an experience.

Have you ever seen someone greet their friend after months apart and just as they start to run toward each other to embrace, one stops the other, pulls out their phone, goes to Snapchat and then lets their friend run toward them for a hug. These fleeting moments are then added to their social media, a “highlight reel” of their lives, where everyone can appreciate the happy minute they experienced.

At that moment, the one where we stop our friend before we even get to hug them, the focus changes. The moment is no longer about us and our friends reuniting, but about the attention we will get on our social media accounts. The pure reunion of friends has lost its value, and for the sake of what, a few favorites and comments about how cute we are?

Stopping moments so that they can be put on social media for all the world to see is something that has become a common occurrence in our culture, and frankly, it’s creating moments that are not fully genuine.

This isn’t even the only problem where social media has weaved its way into our daily lives in a way it shouldn’t have. Just think about how we have the tendency to try and capture every fun experience we have, from concerts and parties, to just hanging doing homework with friends. What we don’t know though is as we’re attempting to capture these events to look back on and enjoy later on, sometimes we become oblivious to what’s happening around us and we forget to enjoy the present. Studies are beginning to show that when we take the time to take pictures and videos in hopes that our phones and cameras will memorize the event for us, we actually make the memories weaker because our brains feel like they don’t have to work as hard to remember for us.

On the flip side, on days where we’re just enjoying time hanging out with friends, sometimes our tendencies to check up on the social media world during that time lead us to neglecting the people we’re with. A new term that has just begun to come into the English vocabulary is “phubbing” which is a play off the term, “phone snubbing.” When someone is phubbing, they decide to pay attention to their phone rather than the person they’re with. We’ve all had it happen to us, and we’ve all done it to other people every once in a while, but how do we make it stop? Is just simply making a point to put down our phones when we’re in community with others enough to make it not acceptable, or does it take something more?

Last year, a Chick-Fil-A in Georgia took a stand on phones at meals and decided to put something called “the Coop” on all tables, for families and friends to put their phones in while they enjoyed a meal together. Some students have begun to make phone stacks when they go out to eat, where everyone stacks their phone in the middle of the table and unless something urgent comes up, cannot check it until the end of the meal. To ensure a screen-free zone, some groups even say that if anyone checks their phone they have to pay the tip, or even the whole check for the table.

As a whole, we’re a very social culture, and we love to share experiences with our friends and families in any way we can. So let’s put our phones down and enjoy the people in front of us, instead of the ones on the screen.