Communication between our generation consists of a bevy of acronyms, and brief photographic interactions. What may appear as a jumble of random letters to someone in an older generation, conveys a message to those in ours. Life is short, and apparently actually spelling out text messages takes up too much time. Which is sort of strange, because auto correct does not make typing acronyms easy.
Cramming as much information and experience into as little data as possible seems to be a trend for our generation, and probably future ones as well. We limit our thoughts to 140-character tweets, summarize our vacations in a couple of Instagram posts, and communicate with friends via ephemeral Snapchat messages.
If we do have limited time in this life, we should focus our energy on enjoying it, not worrying about how others perceive our lives. The 30 minutes some spend on getting that perfect Instagram post—the one that really shows everyone how much fun you’re having on vacation, with the waterfall in the background and your friends on either side, everyone smiling and loving life—could actually be spent experiencing the moment, and living. I’m not saying that everyone who posts to Instagram is doing something wrong. We just spend so much time worrying about how we portray our lives to others that we often forget to stop and experience our own life through our own eyes.
Our tendency to summarize extends past the picture posts to Instagram. We constrict our communication with each other through the incessant use of acronyms over text message. With phrases such as “ttyl,” “btw,” and “thx,” we convey our meaning with as little effort as possible. The way we convey our thoughts over text is rushed, and not “necessarily” genuine.
This common theme among our generation doesn’t extend into our parents’ generations. Aside from the occasional faux “hip” parent, there are very few in older generations that seek shortcuts with such ferocity as us. But there’s a big difference between these two generations. We grew up learning to take the quickest way out. Between the endless cycle of exams, extracurricular involvement, social events, and limited hours of sleep, we adapt to minimizing time required to accomplish the bare minimum. Even with the little scraps of free time we do have, we are never truly alone. Notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever other apps we have, constantly keep us connected to the social happenings around us. We never have time to think for ourselves, to exist within our own heads, without interruption.
Although it may be hard with all the distractions and all the things that keep us busy, we need to take the time to embrace the world as it is in front of us. We should be accepting our environment, not trying to compare it with the edited and projected lives of our peers. We need to worry about our own lives, and take the time to embrace all the opportunities around us. Maximizing the amount of likes on a photo, or views on a Snapchat story, shouldn’t be at the top of our priority list when we’re with friends. For some it even becomes a competition, seeing who can generate the most positive responses with a single post.
If college is supposed to be the place where we develop as individuals and grow into independent, thinking adults, then our interactions over social media are a huge hindrance. We can’t learn to form our own opinions when so much of our time is spent catering to the opinions of others. We can’t learn from our experiences when we aren’t ever fully present in our own lives. We can’t achieve independence, when we have panic attacks because our phones are at 10-percent battery. Sure, we can assume that as we get older, we will grow out of these habits. But instead of waiting around for that to happen, maybe we should take small steps in the right direction. Maybe a picture of our dinner isn’t a necessity. Maybe a disorienting video of a concert doesn’t need to be taken. Maybe we can weaken our dependence on social media, and strengthen ourselves as individuals.
Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphics