Stargazing next to a campfire is one of the things we used to enjoy before social media.
There are two major groups of people today. Those who can't imagine interacting without social media and those who easily go about their business without them. Who belongs to the latter, independent group? Mostly, people with one foot set in the twentieth century.

There are two major groups of people today. Those who can’t imagine interacting without social media and those who easily go about their business without them. Who belongs to the latter, independent group? Mostly, people with one foot set in the twentieth century. Those who have grown up under different rules of communication. Do you remember all the things we used to enjoy before social media took over social interactions? If you do, great, but if not, I do, and I truly enjoy sharing.

The gaps and how to bridge them

Social media fully blossomed about a decade ago, but it seems that the platforms are here with us much longer. And, believe it or not, social media is partly responsible for deepening the gap between close generations. The platforms, unfortunately, slowly but certainly divide people, those too young to question if isolation and social media are interconnected and those who know about and prefer far more rewarding interactions.

Age discrimination, maybe? I don’t believe that social media did it intentionally, but the implications are evident. Interpersonal stratification has another layer: one that separates people involved in wholesome relationships and people stuck to their communication devices. Can they meet in real life? I firmly believe that they – we – can. Although, a few gentle nudges in the right direction might be necessary.

Nudge #1 – Use the phone to meet offline

Mobile phones revolutionized communication just as smartphones did a bit later. And yet, those first cell phones did nothing to halt healthy human interactions. On the contrary, they encouraged them. They allowed people to more easily maintain real-life friendships, meet on the go, and save time for things that matter. Things like sports and outdoor activities, visits to art and culture venues, hobbies, and DIY projects. Things we used to enjoy before social media inadequately transported them to the online world.

Once it became vitally important to photograph a craft beer, it lost its rich taste. A recording of a concert made it evaporate from the heart and soul faster. A selfie at a beach will not remind you of the scent of salt and the sound of the waves if you hadn’t taken the time to savor them. Relying on external memory damages your own. Maybe, just maybe, you should use your phone to call your friends and ask them to join you for a beer at a beach after a concert. Social media should be there only to notify you about gigs nearby.

Nudge #2 – Follow yourself

For the most part, social media are time-wasters. Endlessly scrolling for a piece of interesting content takes time. The time that you can invest doing something useful for yourself. For instance, improving your immediate surroundings or life circumstances. Some people like DIY home projects, some prefer financially motivated pursuits, and others enjoy engaging in their community.

In case you want to help, don’t like and share; instead, volunteer for a cause you feel strongly about, go to a soup kitchen or animal shelter and help. If you move for college or work, make an effort to get to know people in your new neighborhood simply by hosting a housewarming party. It becomes easier to feel you fit in better when it involves a meaningful human interaction. Also, it is much more enjoyable to be a part of a real flesh-and-bone group and not a bits-and-pixels kind of community.

Ask yourself: isn’t it better to dedicate your time to enjoy what you like firsthand? A short while ago, young people couldn’t wait to finish studying to pursue their hobbies, passions, and personal projects. It didn’t matter if someone knew that you bake delicacies, make dolls, hike local trails, create street art, or even visit five bars a night – you did it because you enjoyed it. The only way to fulfill your dreams is to follow yourself. And more often than not, you meet other like-minded people down that road. Mind, these are not called followers, but friends.

Nudge #3 – Have fun from the first-person point of view

Of all the things we used to enjoy before social media monopolized human relations, spending quality time offline was the most prominent. The rediscovery and evolution of board games only prove that imaginative face-to-face interactions do not have a lasting alternative. While there is nothing wrong with gaming on social media platforms, it does leave an impression that the only people having fun are advertisers.

Instead of browsing doggo memes, adopt a dog and go outside to play with it. Rather than reading and leaving comments, create something worth a comment. Take time to study or practice something that you always wanted to learn, be it writing, dancing, playing an instrument, or a sport.

When you go cycling in the neighborhood park, you don’t check the score or compare yourself to others, you don’t look at generic backgrounds or pass avatars. You feel the real wind in your hair, you see people actively playing with their pets, jogging, having picnics, reading in the shade. The best part is, you can be one of them today, tomorrow, and the day after.

All things considered

How to make that first step? It is essential to understand that social media didn’t take away anything we haven’t let go of. Most people who got consumed by the ever-hungry universe of social media did not get absorbed because they thought it perfect but because they didn’t see an alternative. Perhaps social media requires reinvention but so do our interpersonal relations. If people get anxious about face-to-face interaction and shy from relationships, what does it say about our society?

For better or worse, things are never black and white. The best course of action for all who wish to add more color to their daily existence is to gradually step away from the RGB world. Things we used to enjoy before social media are still here, and we can still enjoy them. Why don’t you join in?

Mark Lavigne

Mark Lavigne is a photographer and a part-time journalist involved mostly with the online media. Achieving work-life balance is his top-most priority. He spends most of his leisure time away from the camera and laptop, jogging with his two retrievers.