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Has Social Networking Ruined Our Lives?

And is our battery almost depleted?

Funny, isn't it? How social networking was invented in order for us to reach out and connect with our loved ones. Formed in hope of us reaching out and pulling back new acquaintances and opportunities.

It was meant to be a pastime—something we'd go back to once in a while. A place we would check once or twice a week and then move on with our day-to-day lives. Yet if we fast forward several years we suddenly found ourselves collecting virtual crops from a digital farm we spent countless hours building. Somehow it went from an expendable feature on our minds to a hobby that clawed its way back in inch by inch until we felt it to be more of a conscience than a mutual friend.

Sadly we spend much longer on social media than we'd ever like to admit, and to say we ignore our loved ones just for some online networking time would probably be an understatement.

We spend countless hours staring at a phone screen or tablet whilst cocooned within an unbreakable shell, tapping and scrolling away until our fingers bleed and our brainstem frazzles.

Regardless of our loved ones being within reach we still prefer to send a message. But why? Why do we prefer to type rather than to talk?

Is it because our fingers are more accustomed to tapping than our tongues are to talking? Is it because we'd rather use an emoji to show our feelings rather than express real emotions through melancholy faces? Is it because we as a generation are lazy and just prefer to shove aside effort in order to make way for a robot that does it all for us?

Whatever the reason may be, we are forever trading excuses in order to neglect the physical renditions of our friends and family.

It was only last night whilst my wife and I sat opposite each other scrolling down our Facebook timelines that I had the sudden realisation of how much precious time we were wasting. It wasn't the fact we were on our phones, but more the fact that when I scrolled past something I liked, I tagged her in it. I didn't open my mouth to tell her about it—I tagged her in it. And I know I'm not the only guilty soul on this planet that has done the same thing either.

Sure, we both enjoy being in each others company, and regardless of the lack of words leaving our lips we've never experienced an awkward silence as such. But the fact that we've probably spent half of our relationship in that lucid state transfixed onto a glowing device is somewhat a cause for concern, and I for one can no longer face the fact my virtual avatar is more present than my actual self.

Hours and hours go by and we're never quite satisfied enough with just how much social liquids are being injected into our veins.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Tinder—it all adds up and yet it never quite fills the void in our hearts, because we never have enough approval from the many strangers on the internet. No push notification or activity invite can ever fulfill our addiction, and so we find ourselves playing an ever-looping game of scrolling and swiping until our eyes grow tired and our battery depletes entirely. But then the next morning comes and the rinse and repeat actions bolted on to our instincts suddenly plan half of our days agenda before we even make plans to begin with.

A quick morning check of the notifications or story updates; it shouldn't take more than a second really, should it?

Then why do we suddenly find ourselves an hour down the line watching a video about Russian fashion trends from the 1850s? Why have we gone from carrying out something as basic as a quick browse to a morning filled with useless information and square eyes from a screens overpowering pixel propaganda?

Let's be honest for a minute. Do we see ourselves still standing in 2030? Because I personally don't, and I won't hesitate to speak my mind and say my faith in the human existence isn't exactly at an all time high these days. With ever changing trends and viral vanity contests over the globe it's no doubt the cotton has been pulled over our eyes and that social dominance has become the craving none of us should be chasing.

It is without question our existence as the younger generation is represented by expensive phones and Instagram selfies, flash tech gadgets and more social egos than any of our ancestors could've ever dreamt of possessing. We live in a sad time where kids would rather digest bath salts for a quick YouTube like of approval instead of doing something productive with their moments of freedom.

It wouldn't be a lie if I said we were all on the quest for acceptance from our counterparts and that we'd always be willing to give an arm and a leg just for a few seconds of recognition. But how we go about it these days is what's wrong with the world and why it is crumbling beneath our very feet.

The world is after any form of acknowledgement, and achieving that these days could be as easy as a soaking your head with ice or chugging a mixed concoction of Sambuca and orange juice. Trend after trend the world spins on its axis by a thread strung up by the corrupted hand of a puppeteer. And by puppeteer I mean the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, who would sadly sell your soul for a quick cash grab.

There is rarely any talent or thought contributed into most things people do these days, and usually the vast majority of the population play the game of sheep and follow the loose guidelines of "If they do it, why can't I?"

Do you ever remember your parents saying "If they asked you to jump off a bridge, would you?"

Well in todays world the average kid would respond something along the lines of "Well, if it meant getting a like on Facebook then yes, yes I would."

That, sadly, is what's causing the younger generation to spiral out of control and forget the idea of independence and self-worth.

We are all so desperate to see ourselves climbing the social ladder and thriving off of friend requests and notification spam, when really we should be opening our eyes to those who were around to love us before the likes of social media made its cemented mark on the world.

Remember when we were able to attend a concert and not have to worry about whether or not the audio quality would turn out okay on our videos? Or perhaps the angle we shot our videos from wouldn't quite fit the entire band in and maybe the taller guy in front of you was stopping you from getting that money shot you could later show off to your Instagram followers?

Now do you remember just listening to the music? Do you remember not having to worry about your phone and being perfectly happy with it just being left on silent or better yet, at home? I do. And yet those days seem so far away that I often forget they even existed to begin with.

I remember attending a show one night not so long ago. A band had finally made its way from the States and was performing a set at a place not too far from me. I had been in love with this band for years, and to finally be able to stand there and witness them blasting out songs I had grown up on was a true honour and something I'd never forget.

I recall standing there, looking up at the frontman as if he were God himself, feeling the tingling sensation in my backbone and the sweat dripping from my scalp in ecstasy.

The song I had first heard and grown up on suddenly came on and completely out of nowhere. Of course my first reaction was to reach for my phone and record it. Like an instinct I shoved my hand into my pocket and ignored the world around me, because like everybody else my phone was my second half, and to miss something so incredible would only daunt on me for the rest of my networking life.

I missed the first minute just so I could retrieve my phone and get a good angle on the stage, hoping and preying the sound would be pitch-perfect.
I held my phone and bobbed my head, thinking only of how awesome it'd be once I uploaded it for my friends to see.

The song ended and the band left the stage, scurrying off through the crowd and right past me as I stared down at the video playback on my phone.

It was horribly distorted and fuzzy. Like white noise screaming over a broken record player. Angry at myself I discarded it and felt the annoyance of not admiring the music and only caring about the product I could later share with the online world instead.

That was a big thing for me, and also the reason I never took a phone to a concert again. Because deep down I knew you didn't need playback in order to make it a memory. You just needed to be there in the moment. That was enough in order to make it a memory.

Countless times I have told myself I'd quit it all together, but like a drug it urges you back and promises you even greater happiness. And no matter how long I go without it, I always find my way back, as I'm sure you do, too.

Social media has a way of sitting on our shoulders and bugging us until we cave in and go back to it. Because there's always something to look at, something to see before we call it a day. An item on Marketplace, a video compilation our friend wanted us to see, and an event close to home that we just wouldn't miss for the world.

Our lives are shamefully controlled by the likes of these sites, and although we know our minds are numbing and we are being force-fed a bunch of lies and spam, we allow it to happen. We almost want it to happen—purely because we are afraid of what would happen if we departed the herd of sheep and went rogue without it.

As I said we are all seeking approval, and in todays world that is mostly only achievable by the likes of social presence. That's why we use it, and that is why we struggle to ever give it up and search for an alternative.

I quit smoking five years ago, and to say that was easy would be a lie. I struggled for days, even weeks. But when compared to quitting social media I found it a cake walk.

The constant urge to re-activate an account or create a new one, just so I could catch up on the latest gossip or fill my brain with more useless content. It was always there prying its way back in, and no matter what I always went back to it.

2.7 billion people are in the same boat. That's a fact nobody can ignore. And so whilst I feel that slight glimpse of shame every time I tap those little app icons, I know I'm not the only one who feels the regret coursing through me.

There is no denying it. The world of social media has made a major impact on our current society, and to say it has destroyed the old world would be more than likely true. But has it changed us for the better or worse? Now that's the question that is on everybody's minds.

There's no doubt it has brought the human population closer together, because we all share this common interest and pastime and if one person knows about something, you most likely will too. But to what extent? Why do we all know about these things that probably aren't related to our lives whatsoever?

Because the power of tapping and scrolling, sharing and commenting can bring something from the ashes and into a new light. A phoenix can always rise from the ashes should people be willing to share it with the world.

Yesterdays generation will always remember the days where social media wasn't an important part of our lives, but todays generation will always rely on it as if it is the only thing to grace the earth and keep them breathing.

There's a common line between living through social media and living in reality. It's choosing to balance between the two or falling either side that will define you as a person and carve your future in stone.
If balanced evenly social media can bring endless possibilities to our world, but should we fall towards the wrong end of the spectrum it's no doubt we'd lose ourselves to an alias of our own selfish making.

The world is changing and social media is dominating. Our standards of living are forever shifting and our views on acceptance are based on who has the better phone or fancier tablet. We will always spend more hours that we'd like to when it comes to the likes of social media. That's just the way it is. But I for one am willing to de-activate it, if only for a while, just so I can look up from the screen and experience a little thing called life—the thing that is passing us by faster than ever.

So has social media ruined our lives? I guess that's something only you can answer. We live from it, we learn from it, and above all we are owned by it.

Guaranteed it will always hold a presence in our lives, but choosing to see past it once the battery is depleted is up to you.

Maybe we can all lock our screens, just for one day. Maybe we can open our eyes and see for ourselves that there is more to life than what's always in front of us.

Just maybe.

- J Tury

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