Aristotle’s idea that man is a “Zóon politikon”, or a “social animal”, has pretty much come into its full meaning in the 21st century. We can agree with Aristotle that the individual can only fulfill his true potential in a society that nourishes the feeling of belonging. Loneliness will drive us insane, therefore, individuals who do not need to live in a society are either beasts or gods. (Well, we’ll leave this second part to good ol’ Aristotle to profess).
The point I am trying to make is that human beings need approval from the society around us. The Internet and social networks have brought that approval right into our jeans pocket and now we barely look up from our iPhones. We’re not satisfied with a picture, a story, or a good joke anymore unless it receives dozens “likes” and “favorites” from people we wouldn’t want to talk to if we saw them on the street. We have become dependent on our apps and social networks to keep us connected. Actually having a conversation is too hard. Why talk when you can text? Once we were given the choice between talking and typing, talking lost. Basically, we’re holding our phones and saying: “I could have called you and I chose not to. I decided I only want to hear my half of the conversation.”
And like a drug, our connected feeling has waned and now we want even more convenience and ways to communicate without talking. Private social networks have increased exponentially in the last few months. Snapchat, an app that deletes the images after only a few seconds, or Secret, an app that broadcasts messages anonymously, are growing in popularity. I believe we have seen the crest of the big social network and the tide is pulling us out into a sea of niche networks, platforms and channels to share our lives.
The newest addition to the anti-social network is Cloak. This app allows you to gather data from other social networks, pinpoint other individuals and also receive an alert if they are in your radius to help avoid them. Avoid train wrecks like running into your ex while having dinner with your girlfriend or avoid the in-laws while you’re walking around town. This is like the apocalypse for the social animal. We are now inventing new ways to be more closed off and alone in the physical world.
Are we really completely and utterly fed-up with real social interaction? Do we fear being too scrutinized and controlled by everyone that need to run away? Is this the new world we are building for our kids? I don’t have the answer, and of course I do engage in social networking, but I also advocate for us to get outside, unplug, talk to people, enjoy the scenery and not settle for a tiny screen to reach our friends and loved ones.
This is an intriguing storyline that’s unfolding right before our eyes. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject and keep the debate going on the future of society and the long-term implications of our smartphone and social media addictions. Stay tuned for more, but in the meantime remember, you’re not alone!