As students take their first steps into a new semester of college, they realize that socializing is a gradual yet significant process that can direct the course of their lives at Stony Brook University for the next four years or so. In the age of technological communication, we have never before seen a greater emphasis placed on knowing what’s what and who’s who through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other forms of social media. Ask a typical student how he or she makes friends, and the immediate response will be “through Facebook.” In a mere decade, technology has allowed us to share every moment of our lives as we experience them. Although Facebook offers networking opportunities, long-term problems remain hidden under a thick layer of status updates, likes, comments and tweets.
Nowadays, it is nearly impossible to sit through a class without seeing people not-so-sneakily take out their cell phones to check their newsfeeds. Usually, I find the piercing colors from my peers’ games of Candy Crush Saga burned into my corneas while I ignore the sounds of cell phones beeping from notifications that resonate within the walls of a large lecture hall. This frequent intermingling between our online lives and real lives leads me to ask: Why has technological communication become so advanced, only for us to abuse it?
Perhaps the answer stems from the fact that our social lives have become harder to manage while we are forced to comply with the increasing demands of our education. The value of a student’s education relies on his or her daily performance in the academic arena. In a society that constantly demands perfection, we find our social lives neglected in our pursuit for scholastic excellence.
This is where social media provides us with an appealing platform. With little to no effort, we can see everything our friends are up to on Facebook with one scroll of our newsfeed. Similarly, we can follow tweets of friends and celebrities over Twitter with a click or touch of a button. Unfortunately, the accessibility of this information entices us to spend more of our time posting, tweeting and uploading rather than learning. Arguably, large groups created over Facebook intend to provide members with assistance through exchange of information. Before long, the line between studious discussions and socializing becomes so blurred that we unintentionally lose sight of our academic focus.
In a school as large as Stony Brook University, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram conveniently allow students to integrate into their enormous collegiate setting one click at a time. Social media has simplified the process of creating friendships into a matter of exchanging messages and tagging other people in photos.
At first glance, it may seem as if we are successfully forming bonds that will last a lifetime. But a more realistic view will assert that using Facebook, Twitter and other types of social media can never compare to reaching out and making friends face to face. Social media serve as windows through which we can observe others without the need to converse. Thus, we end up choosing quantity over quality, collecting friends to add to our list or to follow instead of directly interacting with them. In our mission to add the most friends, we forget the value in getting to know someone on a personal basis.
The truth is that exchanging emoticons and typing “lol” and “omg” are not the same as seeing someone smile or seeing a person’s reaction. This type of beauty that we can only see when interacting with someone in person constantly escapes us. Since our friends are figuratively tucked away in our pockets, within the recesses of our smartphones, they are available to us 24/7, eliminating the need to see them. Paradoxically, as we connect more and more people, we become increasingly distant from those around us.
To be fair, social media does have its benefits. If Facebook were to become a country, it would have the third-largest population in the world with over 500 million citizens. Therefore, it is undeniable that the scope of influence social media has reached is enough to define our generation and pave the way for the 21st century. Nevertheless, we must come to the realization that the forefront of the most advanced technology in history is in the midst of our fingertips and should not be abused.
The solution lies in finding a balance between spending time in the real world and online. As tempting as it is, students should not log into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. during class. It will most likely evoke unwanted attention from peers and serve as a distraction from class work. Moreover, social media should be used to create experiences, not fake them. Instead of merely joining study groups on Facebook, we can organize events to have study sessions.
On a friendlier note, creating get-togethers is an easy task with the assistance of social media. SBU is a university with over 16,000 interesting students and a host to hundreds of events that take place on campus every year. It would be wise to try to network with people through conversation and interaction instead of reserving these actions to the online world.