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April 8, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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“We Need to Talk”

Brainteaser of the week: if a girl eats brunch and no one is there to Instagram it, did it even happen? For many of us, instagramming before
eating something delicious has become almost second nature. To fail to do so would be a waste of food; how else are you going to give your
friends FOMO?*

We are a generation obsessed with our own lives, spending excessive amounts of time documenting and communicating about every unimportant aspect of our daily lives. With those in our close circles, the question “How was your day?” has come to hold little value. If something interesting has happened, you’ve probably already texted your friends about it. Along with a cheeky Facebook post. Stories and events become old news hours, even minutes, after they occur as technology allows us to talk to anyone, anytime. But are we spending too much time documenting and communicating about our lives, and not enough time actually living them?

According to ComScore, an online research site that uses mobile measurement reports, the average Instagram user spent just over ten minutes each day accessing the photo-sharing site last year. As entertaining as other people’s shameless ‘selfies’ are, this is surely the perfect amount of time to have a quick catch up with a real-life friend. The same source estimates that 15 minutes of any given day are typically consumed by mobile-phone calls for the modern-day person, along with a further 22 minutes taken up by texting. Imagine how good your abs would be looking if you focused on them for this time instead? Furthermore, the average Facebook user spends between 20 and 60 minutes online every day, and that doesn’t take into account increased usage during procrasti-Facebooking sessions before assessments are due.

Take the time we spend emailing, Snapchatting, and on sites like Tumblr and Twitter; multiply this by 365, and suddenly we have frittered away days, even weeks per year on our phones and MacBooks. Multiply this by 80, and you can say adios to years of your life wasted in front of a screen. Social media has become a massive part of our lives, almost taking the place of a cat, or a boyfriend. We feel the need to check into Facebook as soon as we get home from any given place, despite the fact that many of us have notifications constantly delivered to our very own smartphone, which is practically glued to our hands anyway.

Student Sophie** talks about her friend who spent the majority of summer overseas: “We talked most days, both talking about what we were doing, and me spilling gossip about what was happening back here. When she came back I felt completely up to date; it was like she had never left.”

Our ease of communication means that we are practically never isolated from our social circles. We can be virtually connected with our friends and family at any given time, able to text our families for flatting recipes or Chat our friends during that painful two-hour lecture. At some point however, this surely becomes overkill. Our obsession with knowing what everyone is up to at every moment of the day leaves less room for focusing on reality, let alone living it to the fullest.

So is the ‘YOLO’ generation all talk? Since rapper Drake first coined the term, we have been using YOLO to justify every little questionable move, often hash-tagging or texting it from the safety of our own houses. Search #yolo on instagram, and one of the first results on the Insta-feed’ is of girls doing tequila shots. Another tequila shot? “Yeah, let’s live life to the fullest!”, said no one, ever. Today’s generation of teenagers seem to spend almost an equal amount of time living our lives as we do communicating about them over technology. Next time you Instagram a picture of your delicious lunch #foodporn, consider which you enjoyed more: your fresh BLT, or the amount of likes you got
from your post. #priorities.

If we only live once, then why are we spending our lives living through our gadgets? Is the birth and growth of communication technology gradually leading to the death of actual communication? Technology is undoubtedly useful in terms of keeping us together, but it is equally skilled at keeping us apart. The way in which we can be physically with someone while virtually connected with someone else means that the world is getting increasingly lonelier for those that do not gel with our ever-changing technology. The Huffington Post’s Zion Lights describes this bridge between virtual and real life as “virtually insurmountable”; those who cannot keep up will undoubtedly get left behind.

Communication today never stops. We can talk to virtually anyone, anytime, while the new findmyfriends app for iPhones lets us literally track
our friends’ progress on their walk to Uni. But maybe it’s time that we revise the way in which we use technology. It’s not that we’re using it, it’s how we’re using it. Which is way, way too much. These forms of communication are great when used reasonably, so long as you don’t forget to enjoy the Fidel’s waffles that you just snapped. #moderation.

*Fear of Missing out, for those of you behind the times with your acronyms.
**not her real name.

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