Chat with the chief: It’s called “social” media for a reason

I’m really not convinced social media is a bad thing.

Every day, while I scroll through Facebook or Twitter, I see a handful of posts — usually cheesy black- and-white pictures of a cell phone or something — with a quote about how social media is ruining our lives. These quotes typically target the concept that humans are trapped by technology and that people should focus more on the moment than on posting that moment on Snapchat.

But let’s back that up a little bit. Dear people who always share these posts on social media, doesn’t that seem hypocritical? You’re using social media to talk about how social media is ruining society.

Weird flex, but OK.

Now, this article is not about people who sit on their phone the entire time while, for example, at a family dinner or at a party with a bunch of people. This drives me as crazy as the next guy.

What I am talking about, however, is when someone is sitting on their phone in between periods of a hockey game or when people standing in a long line at a coffee shop are scrolling on Instagram rather than making small talk with the other patrons, or when a few friends are sitting together on the couch staring at their screens. When people do this, there’s always that person that says, “Man, if it wasn’t for those phones, the world would be so much more social! Damn Facebook and everything like it!”

What people don’t realize is that in 2019, this is how a lot of people communicate.

If I’m sitting on my phone in between periods of a hockey game, it’s because my friend went to get concessions and I don’t want to just stare at the ice the entire time.

When I’m in line to get my morning coffee, I’m not really up to talking to anyone, especially strangers. If another customer starts to talk to me, sure, I’ll be friendly and make conversation, but I won’t go out of my way to make some unsolicited comment about the weather to someone who is likely too tired to want to answer.

If my friends and I are together all on our phones, it’s likely that we’ve been together for the past eight hours and are simply enjoying each other’s presence, which we don’t need to speak to do. Plus, when we’re on our phones together, we frequently show each other memes, which spark more conversation.

Social media is a relatively new tool that has opened so many doors for people. Do you have a friend or relative that lives across the country? You can stay updated on their life and get in contact in no time just by searching their profile. Do you want to find new friends with similar interests as you? No problem. Just hop on Twitter and you’ll meet new people instantly. Do you want to stay updated on news around the globe? Social media allows for the publishing and spread of breaking news previously impossible.

In a lot of ways, social media does exactly what it implies: it makes people socialize. There are so many people I would never interact with if we weren’t united over interest in the same niche through social media. I’ve made a ton of friends and discovered plenty of job opportunities that would otherwise be difficult to find if social media had not existed.

So before you roll your eyes at a person on their phone during an otherwise mundane part of their life, consider that they might be sending memes to a friend or Googling something or reading a news article.

Social media is not about shutting the world out. It’s about letting the world in.