September 15, 2020

Why our screens leave us desiring more nutritious forms of social interaction

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

COVID-19 has seen all the rules change when it comes to social engagement. Workplaces and schools have closed, gatherings have been banned, and the use of social media and other online tools has risen to bridge the gap.

But as we continue to adapt to the various restrictions, we should remember that social media is the refined sugar of social interaction. In the same way that producing a bowl of white granules means removing minerals and vitamins from the sugarcane plant, social media strips out many valuable and sometimes necessarily challenging parts of “whole” human communication.

Fundamentally, social media dispenses with the nuance of dealing with a person in the flesh and all the signalling complexities of body language, vocal tone and speed of utterance. The immediacy and anonymity of social media also remove the (healthy) challenges of paying attention, properly processing information and responding with civility.

As a result, social media is a fast and easy way to communicate. But while the removal of complexity is certainly convenient, a diet high in connections through social media has been widely shown to have a detrimental effect on our physical and emotional wellbeing.

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