9th May 2014

So social you’ve become unsocial?

In the words of Gary Turk, ‘we’re a generation of idiots; smart phones and dumb people’.

We’re the online generation. We’ve all felt the wave of panic when the wifi signal drops, the nagging feeling of unread notifications and the dreaded moment of 2% battery with no charger in sight.

That’s because social media has grown into much more than an online tool. It’s seamlessly integrated into everyday life, providing an opportunity to monitor the world around you with just the click of a button.

I’m guilty of sitting down, putting a film on and looking up to see every member of my family clicking, swiping and typing on their chosen device, picking conversations with online friends instead of those in reaching distance.

The same thing happened on Monday evening. After a compulsory Facebook scroll, I spotted a video that had been shared on my newsfeed a few times. It popped up on Twitter, Buzzfeed and Reddit before I thought it might be worth a watch.

‘Look Up’ is a video created by Gary Turk, a writer and director from London. It wasn’t made to change the world, but instead encourage people to disconnect from social media and reconnect with humanity, with a love story thrown into the mix for good measure.

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As with every viral video, it got people talking. Some people loved it, some people hated it. After 30 million views, some people just focused on the irony of a video going viral when the topic was fighting to stop it. Either way, it certainly brought the web together for a moment of realisation: our generation has become so social online, we’ve become unsocial off it.

So, after digging a little deeper into the impacts of an online reality, it turns out instagramming food porn, #nofilter selfies and constant status updates really are all negatively impacting our happiness and contributing to a world of ‘social envy’. Yep, that’s a real thing. Two German universities conducted studies around ‘envy incidents’ on Facebook and found that viewing a friend’s holiday snaps and comparing the number of likes, comments and birthday greetings were two of the biggest triggers for social unhappiness.

It might be easy to sit down, highlight an issue and list the negatives but with social media constantly at our fingertips, it’s no wonder our online profiles are such a big part of offline life. We’re told what time of day to post for the most attention, we edit tweets to craft an idealised version of our lives and we stalk profiles instead of picking up the phone.

Addiction is a strong word, and it’s safe to say I’m not. However the majority of the population are so attached to their online worlds that perhaps we don’t recognise the real time that has been lost to make space for its technological replacement.

In reality, we rely on the web and everything that comes with it. It offers an unrivalled free speech platform and constant communication when it’s needed most. Saying that, if there’s one thing we can take from the video, it’s keep an eye out for what’s going on around you. Use social media as a tool, not as a replacement for real life.

Take a leaf out of Gary’s book:

“Look up from your phone. Shut down those displays. We have a finite existence, a set number of days. Don’t waste your life getting caught it the net, as when the end comes, nothing’s worse than regret.”

By Rachel Billings, Account Executive (B2B)