COLUMN: It’s A Small World After All

Standing on the corner of a street, the rustle of New York comes alive as I observe the people who pass. I listen to the noises around me-the garbage trucks loading and lifting trash, people chatting, and the nearby food vendor’s radio playing some sort of tribal music. Suddenly, my ears become flooded with the music that emanates from a stranger’s earphones-Sinatra-and then vanishes, replaced with tribal music. Girls giggle nearby, as they bow their heads, eyes focused on the cellphone screen within their delicate hands. So much in the world to see and hear, but do we really experience life in a simple way at all anymore? Has the rise of technology forever trampled the possibility of living a simplistic life in our society?

I envy the childhood my parents had and the world in which they lived. I believe that when they were children, they had much more courage than kids nowadays. When they wanted to go play with their friends or get a bite to eat in town, they didn’t grab their cellphones-they lacked the reassurance that a friend would be waiting for them at the place and time indicated. Instead, they went out and ventured and explored.

No matter whom we talk to, a text or email takes seconds to send-then, letters took weeks to arrive. Anticipation built within them as they desperately waited for the next letter to arrive. When it did, a new note would be sent out, and the anticipation would settle again. Romance letters were real, friends were missed so much more, and distance seemed so much farther. The world seemed so much larger.

I wish my childhood resembled the environment in which my parents lived. While I didn’t have a phone until I was around 13, my teenage years were greatly dictated by social media. We were all so connected, and we were always talking-about what, I still can’t really say. In our society, it is common for a young adult to own both a computer and cellphone, and life seems to be made so much easier. But is it? Can we confidently say we are happier now?

News organizations have started to become clouded with reports on Facebook’s 10th birthday, taking place this coming week. It seems odd to me that Facebook has only been in existence for a decade. I know I cannot be the only one who desperately tries to imagine the world in which our parents or grandparents lived. Taking a step back, it is almost eerie to think how connected we are to each other-all the time. Facebook has taken over the social world, for good and for bad. But does the bad outweigh the good?

I am not an addict of Facebook, and I rarely ever use the site seriously. Yet, there are those days when I log on countless times. To be honest, I can’t even really tell you what I do when I am on Facebook. Let’s just call it a typical way to procrastinate and waste a ton of time.

Facebook has been a gift to the social media world in numerous ways. Staying connected to those who are distant from us is made so much easier. We can be up-to-date on people we aren’t even very close to, and acquaintances have become much easier to maintain. Since coming to Boston College, I have recognized how small the world can seem, at least in our society. When meeting new people, learning where they are from or what school they previously went to, I commonly ask whether they know a certain person. In fact, it has become a joke among my friends, as I frequently discover that many people share acquaintances with me. I attribute to Facebook the world’s increasing smallness. In only a decade, the famous social site has garnered 1.3 billion users.

In fact, in order to feel like we remain connected to those we care about, words don’t even need to be exchanged anymore. One can look at a friend’s Facebook page and be updated on what he or she has been doing recently. In this way, language has been lost. Yet, the power of language and words has been dissolving over time in another manner. As we come to use our voices less and less, our words are translated virtually-we do not read the expression of the person to whom we speak, and thus, we cannot know the power or impact of our language.

Studies have shown that Facebook can actually sadden its viewers, for it presents an unrealistic life for all of us. Our saddest, worst moments are not shown on Facebook, only our best. Facebook is there for us to flaunt, to tell all of our “friends” the latest news-the colleges or jobs to which people are accepted or the places to which they travel. We all seem so happy, but this is not real life at all.

I am grateful in many ways for the innumerable gifts technology has brought, alleviating my separation anxiety from friends and family and making research papers a little less grueling. It is truly revolutionary that we are capable of seeing the faces of loved ones through a computer screen, no matter how many miles separate us. But I come to question whether technological advancements and the rise of social media have changed humankind for the worse. I feel that many, including me, have almost become weaker in a sense. With every tear that falls from our eyes or bad day that passes, we can easily reach out to loved ones for help. While, of course, this provides much comfort, our parents coped with these difficulties themselves. We have been persuaded to believe that technology and media bring us closer together, but does that mean we are now far more interdependent, as well? The landscape of our world has changed, and so have the people in it. I guess time can only tell what will come of it all.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.