The Life We Lived Before Social Media

Culture

If you grew up before social media escalated and became increasingly popular, you’ll remember how interactions were far different to how they are now. We used the telephone at home to talk to friends, we mailed letters to our families overseas and we would go next door to play with the neighbours kids. Communication now has a sense of urgency, but the value in a conversation is the most important thing, no matter how convenient it is to reach someone. Social media has enabled us to connect with anyone online but there is a rarity in truly establishing an authentic conversation. Below are several observations of how social media has impacted our lives.

sharing / Sharing is a natural part of our daily conversations and interactions with friends and family. However, it’s increasingly common to share with strangers about intimate details of our lives. It’s good to share what you like, but it’s important to have moderation, because most of the simple memories are the ones we keep to ourselves.

privacy / There is less mystery now compared to when we wouldn’t know what someone is doing or where they are. It’s common to share more of our lives to the public. Every action we take online is not truly private from everything we view to what we read.

daydreaming / The art of people watching has been replaced with spending time on our phones. The days of sitting at the bus stop watching people walk by or staring out a window looking at the cars seemed to give us a sense of feeling present. Daydreaming gives us a whole universe into our imagination that a phone can’t replicate.

relationships / My close relationships with friends and family are often those that I see in person, or even those that I might not talk to for a while, but when you reconnect in person it feels just the same. It’s easy to be online friends with many people, but in-person contact definitely solidifies a deeper friendship.

follows / Before social media was what it is now, we tend to catch up, surround ourselves and make friends with people we feel good around. The concept of following means that many people are following the lives of people they don’t really know, rather than focusing on living their own lives.

daily routine / social media is a normal, regular part of many people’s everyday routine. I remember before social media, I spent a lot more time reading the newspaper while I was having breakfast, playing with puzzles, going to the library for an afternoon and being creative with my hands.

online personality / When I think of social media apps like Instagram, there can definitely be a narrow snapshot of what the person is like. We only get a tiny glimpse from a shot snapped in a second. We can choose what we want to show and we can show ourselves a certain way.

strangers / Do you remember walking down the neighbourhood streets and greeting people or talking to random people in the store? There was more of a mystery of not knowing what goes on in other’s lives but there was also a genuine kindness and connection that we would have.

news / We have more choices than ever before and we are able to choose which platforms we receive our news from. There is more fake news online and we are consuming news that has been specifically targeted towards us from what we’re already consuming, rather than challenging us with new ideas.

childhood / One of the most heart-breaking things is seeing how young children are already using phones and tablets. I would argue that this is not healthy for a child and even for adults using their phone when the child needs their attention. Play is a powerful part of childhood, as well as interacting with people or exploring the world around us.

boredom / How we spend our free time has changed. One of the most freeing things was when I stopped using Facebook. I think that social media can often be a way of filling our moments of boredom, yet those are the very moments that can be filled with something that can support our growth. Learning a new language, going out for a long walk or talking to a loved one.

special memories / When we were younger, there would be endless photo albums of memories that were captured. The moments were precious, natural and candid. They were just snapshots of the life we were living in, rather than photos of looking a certain way. Those special memories we hold dearly.

mental health / We live in a generation where many people have a smartphone addiction. The constant use of our phones are also a form of escapism of our real-life experiences. It creates avoidance in confronting issues and it has increased the rates of anxiety and depression. Minimizing our technology use is beneficial for having a balanced lifestyle.

in person / The best form of communication is always in person, even though it’s great that we can connect with people online, especially if we’re unable to see them often. However, I find that when we use our phones in the presence of others we lose a moment to connect with them. It’s the ability to be in the present that is important.

phone addiction / We pick up our phones numerous times a day to check our messages, watch a video, write an email or read an article. Before social media, our phone usage was far less. We would predominantly use it for texting and calling. We are constantly distracted by our phones.

surveillance capitalism / After watching The Social Dilemma, it makes one question how every part of our online activity is being followed and tracked. We are living in isolation bubbles from algorithms that expose us to repeated content that we are predicted to engage with.

sense of mystery / There would be an air of mystery. Now when you meet someone you can look at their social media profile and pretty much know most things about them.  Without social media sites, there would be more mystery and you would have to form your own opinion of them from your experiences.

over consumption / Over consumption is encouraged through the never-ending flow of information available online. It can be helpful to follow a small amount of accounts. I feel that then gives an added value, rather than joining the noise and mindlessly passing through many posts. It also saves time to minimize the amount of online content you consume.

ability to focus / How present are we in our day-to-day lives? We live in an attention economy where corporations earn profit from our attention and how long they can distract us. Seeing the world around us means consciously having no screen time and having time to be in our own thoughts. The moments where we get lost in reading a book or playing an instrument.

communication / The way we communicate has changed astronomically. We don’t talk on the phone as often, and most communication is done through messaging and emailing. We tend to use the self-check out aisles and we avoid more in-person communication. The true connection we have in the world can only be felt through in-person interactions.

the art of slow / I think of how our parents would go to the library to do all their research or how our grandparents would write letters to one another. There was no shopping online or instant messaging, and reading and research were all done offline. The ability to take a step back and take your time rather than rushing through life brings us back to the present.

Reflecting on life before social media causes us to confront the behaviours that have changed over time. Research says that social media is re-writing our brains and our behaviours are heavily influenced by technology. Social media has permeated many facets of our lives; breaking the boundaries of what is public and private. By consciously taking control and action to maintain balance in our life, we reclaim the time we may spend online, and we have the freedom of not being constraint to our devices.

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” ― E.O. Wilson

Art by Annya Marttinen

4 thoughts on “The Life We Lived Before Social Media

  1. A very reflective post, Katie. I do remember the days before social media, the time where dial-up was considered the most fastest form of internet and mobile phones were chunky like a brick. Back then being online felt like something fun, exciting, like a luxury. I would have to work out a time between my brother and parents to use to the computer and go online and play games. These days social media is prevalent everywhere and there seems to be always some new popular platform coming up each. Agree with you that it is easy to fall into the trap of over-consumption of media. As a creative person I like referring to social media to inspire my writing. But I have to be careful to not be caught up in scrolling and refreshing, unplugging when it is time to focus and write.

    1. Thank you for your comment Mabel. It’s truly a blessing to have experienced life before social media because there is the lived experience of what it was like pre-social media. It really was! I remember how fun it was even playing solitaire on the computer or pac man on the phone. There does seem to be something new always coming up or a new form of tech coming out. I agree, it’s important to unplug to focus and be fully present.

  2. Wow, what a refreshing read! I appreciate your breakdown on each observation and the beautiful artwork as well :) I agree with you that social media has a huge impact on our lives and we should be more reflective on what influences our behaviors. Thanks for your post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s