Real life is eclipsed by our virtual obsessions

Ann Abbott Freeman

Ok, it is unpopular opinion time. Now, you may think your grandmother is writing this article, but it is not so. I am a normal, 20-year-old Villanova student, and I have realized that I am addicted to all forms of social media. 

I constantly refresh Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Once upon a time I briefly dabbled in the terrifying world of Tumblr. The highlight of some weekend nights has been creating an embarrassingly long Snapstory. I can no longer simply sit and do nothing anymore. I am always on my phone, always waiting for something to load. My eyes are always down, looking at the screen. 

I know where it is at all times and the thought of losing it gives me severe anxiety. Recently it dawned on me that this is a serious problem that plagues the majority of people between the ages of 13 and 30. 

Our generation is obsessed with our smart phones and the apps that allow us to access our many forms of social media. 

It is a fascinating phenomenon. We are obsessed with ourselves and with the images we portray on social media. 

We plan events around the photos we will “Instagram” and “Facebook.” We follow complete strangers on every social media site and yet sometimes we don’t smile at people we actually have met walking past us on the street. 

We go out for a meal with someone and spend the hour on our phones. We take selfies with strangers. 

The social media sites we use have become verbs. We “Snapchat” pictures of our friends instead of talking to them. 

We “Instagram” about how much we love them and miss them instead of telling them to their face. We measure our self-worth in “likes” and “favorites” and “followers.” Our social status is based on how many friends we have on Facebook, how many people follow us on Instagram, and how many likes our photos get. 

Who cares if a person you know never acknowledges you—if they double tap that “tbt” you “Instagrammed” then they obviously care about you. 

Our values and priorities are in desperate need of reorganization. We miss events because we are viewing them through our phone screen to add to our Snapstory. We miss celebrations and concerts because we are picking a filter for the photo we took there. We let precious moments go by. 

This summer I was embarrassed to catch myself missing out on real life. 

One evening, at a Keith Urban concert, I was taking photos with my phone and I ran out of memory. I couldn’t take any more photos unless I deleted some.

So I sat in my seat in the middle of a live concert and missed two songs because I was scrolling through my camera roll trying to pick out photos to delete so I could take more of Keith Urban. 

That is so terrible, and I am ashamed of myself. I witnessed another example of this misplaced focus on a wider scale during the week of midterms. 

To soothe the frazzled students of Villanova, the University brought in some furry friends—a bunny and some dogs—for students to pet. I watched students waiting in line to hold the bunny for the sole purpose of taking a photo with it to “Instagram” and caption said photo with different rabbit emojis. 

We are missing life, real life, because we are obsessed with a virtual reality and a network that arguably weakens our social connections and personal relationships. 

Our generation is the first in a century that doesn’t know how to talk on the phone. We text, email, iMessage, etc. 

We could feasibly go through life right now without talking to another human being on the phone. Now, I’m not suggesting we eliminate social media. That is not practical, and, of course there are certainly positives to it, but I am suggesting we take a moment and have some perspective. 

There are some easy ways to loosen the hold social media has on us. Put down the phone at meals. Look up from your phone at a concert or at a birthday party.

The birthday girl or boy doesn’t need 18 videos of her/him blowing out the candles. 

He/she wants their friends with them; that’s all. The memory lasts far longer than the Snapchat or Vine. 

Look up while you walk to class and smile at people. Make real connections. People respond to touch and voices and eye contact. Try going out without “Instagramming,” just once, for fun. Make sure social media doesn’t control you. 

Don’t measure yourself by your presence online. Make sure you know life is about so much more. 

Life is about people and connections and laughter and love—not tweets and likes and followers. Strive for something more permanent, something real.