Lifestyle

Connected but alone

How the digital world impacts relationships

Kailey Lafond demonstrated the isolation and darkness that social media can bring in one's life in Calgary on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. It can consume one's day and have negative effects on one's life. (Photo by Victoria Cockriell/The Press)

Kailey Lafond demonstrated the isolation and darkness that social media can bring in one’s life in Calgary on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. It can consume one’s day and have negative effects on one’s life. (Photo by Victoria Cockriell/The Press)

With the increase of online environments over the past two decades, the spheres where people connect often look a lot different than they used to. 

While college students of past generations may have frequented arcades and pay phone booths, mobile devices equipped with Candy Crush and Instant Messenger have long replaced those spaces. 

“Nothing compares to having a coffee date with somebody,” said Heidi Yip, a marketing student from Mount Royal University.

“You can use social media to interact initially with somebody, if you’re reuniting, planning something or getting the word out.

“Moving forward in terms of building relationships [or] deeper connection, what’s better is human, face-to-face interaction.”

Yip recently began a month-long reprieve from social media, which has since caused her to question the role it’s played in her everyday life.

“It’s interesting to see how much I’ve relied on it,” she said. 

Without the option of pulling out her phone in class or whenever she gets bored, she’s become more aware of the ways that social media platforms can create a false sense of connection with the people around her. 

“When there’s a special event that somebody makes, I feel more connected,” said Yip.

“When nothing’s going on and you’re just on for leisure, it feels like you’re
less connected.”

This phenomenon is one psychologist Sherry Turkle spoke about during a 2012 TEDTalk entitled Connected But Alone, whereby she explored a few of the ways that media platforms can work to create a false sense of connectivity. 

Turkle explained how there can be a lack of personal relationships despite all the time spent constantly interacting. To her, online communication is a feeble replacement for the real thing, and the incessant quest to engage in online communities has instead left many feeling alone.

It’s not unheard of to see a group of people doting over their phones during a shared meal or a classroom full of students all engrossed in their respective online worlds.

Brayden Bauer, a recent SAIT graduate from the Civil Engineering Technology program, hopes to one day rid himself of all social media accounts. 

“I use social media somewhat for keeping track of events and staying in contact with friends, but I mostly use it to look at mildly funny memes that help pass the time,” said Bauer. 

He sees how social media both aids and hinders connection, adding that he feels “less connected with good friends, [but] more connected to acquaintances.

“I completely believe that social media affects connectivity,” said Bauer. 

“Before social media, you would have to cold call new acquaintances in order to meet up or keep in contact with them. The loss of this practice has impacts in many areas of daily connection.”

Lately, he’s been taking a step back from websites like Facebook and YouTube and believes it’s been a move in the right direction. 

“I can say that I have thought deeper about things that matter and generally just wasted less of the most precious resource: time,” said Bauer. 

“[Social media] has this presence in our life that is somewhat demanding even though it gives very little.”

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