See and Be Seen

I remember going to events as a teenager with my friends.  Although we enjoyed each other’s company, we also enjoyed checking out our peers and interacting with them.  Going to an event was as much about seeing the show as it was about socializing.  We didn’t have email, social media, or smartphones to communicate with one another.  We just kind of knew what was going on and who we were going with, or who might be there.

For the last month I have been taking a shortcut through a local college campus when walking downtown.  One path takes me directly through the courtyard.  It’s always full of students this time of the year.  However, instead of watching them interact with each other, I watch them interact with their phones.  Who knows, maybe they’re interacting with each other through their phones by posting about being in the courtyard to everyone else who was already in the courtyard…. yeah, feels confusing for me too.

Has the goal changed from going out to socialize, to instead, posting about being out?  Will the socializing now primarily happen in the digital world?  And what are the rules in this new sort of environment?  Regarding events (and socializing in general), is it more important to see each other in person, or to be seen on social media about what you did, said, or thought?

It seems that most of the real socializing now happens in the digital world.  While this may connect one person with a huge quantity of other people, that doesn’t mean the connections are good quality.  As I’ve written about in other posts, digital socializing (and communication) disguises many of the non-verbal cues we pick up on as part of face-to-face interactions such as body language, tone, facial expressions, and inflections.  Without any of these cues, we’re reduced to using emoji and internet slang (e.g. IRL*, NSFW*) to express complicated things.  Or posting pictures where we always look like we’re having the time of our lives.

And when we post things about our various activities, instead of truly experiencing them IRL, are we posting as ourselves, or as our digital persona?  Is the persona becoming more important than the person?

(*In Real Life, Not Suitable for Work)

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