Antisocial social media

From the summit of Coney Mountain. (Provided photo —Diane Chase)

Recently we had an online reunion with my husband’s family. Our niece is supposed to get married on Halloween. (Don’t even get me started on how excited I am that she chose that date.) We don’t see my husband’s siblings frequently and now the children are older and spread across the country. We all remarked that it took a pandemic to get us all into the same, though virtual, room. We communicate. We text. We post on social networks to keep in touch, but it took a quarantine to make us realize that the part we miss the most is a real-time conversation. Social media is just a segment of our relationship, it isn’t the only avenue.

My daughter came to the same conclusion long before she began her online school quarantine. She stopped doing “streaks” and stopped checking her various social platforms on demand. She focused time on group chats that led to group outings. I’d hear her laughing in her room as she connected with friends, knowing that she’d be discussing a video, TikTok, or Dad joke with them in person at a later time. She enjoys face to face time rather than Facetime. Don’t get me wrong, she likes exchanging texts, Snapchats, and Instagram messages as a way to connect with friends near and far. It’s just never been her only way of communication. (Full disclaimer: I did check with her to get permission to write about her. We do have to live in the same house. It’s not like I have an opportunity to escape, if necessary.)

Now the part that is missing is the ability to connect with friends, to read faces rather than texts. I wonder if this social distancing will actually make us closer? Though social media has been an incredible experience, a lot of us are finding “old fashioned” ways to make a human connection. We’ve written more letters and picked up phones to speak with our elders. We’ve had ZOOM book/wine clubs and reunions. My family has even taken to Facetiming each other around the house rather than the usual text. You read that correctly. I would text from upstairs because my family can’t hear me. Apparently my voice is like a dog whistle, at a pitch undetectable by humans.

I have no real answers, but I do feel that the bad side of social media is how antisocial it can make us with or without a quarantine. That doesn’t even touch on how limiting it must be for anyone with hearing issues, anxiety, or living alone. I’m not implying that social media is all bad. It allows me to keep track of my friends and their families around the world and for them to get a glimpse of mine.

I do hope that through this time we all continue to reach out to neighbors, friends, and strangers. When we are no longer distancing ourselves, perhaps we will strive to be better communicators face to face. Until then, I wish you safe distancing.


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