Updated: Nov 25
Keith Haring, untitled (subway drawing), ca. 1982
The way so many of us communicate today isn’t human at all. As we continue to use our smartphones and other forms of internet communication, we lose out on the structurally sound, tried and tested, reliable form of communication: talking to someone.
To many of you, the readers here, this may seem obvious, and as I was growing up I’ve heard it repeatedly over and over as a warning or as a reminder that a phone should be strictly for calling for a specific reason or as a way to stay informed with global events. For my generation, however, it is very different. We have grown up using these devices all the time. We have created separate artificial lives on these devices. As a result, the whole notion of socializing is completely different for young people.
Growing up interacting with your peers through popular social media such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, gives a false sense of communication. At the basic level, these are two people texting to their phones, which in turn exchange information. It is not two individuals acknowledging each other and conversing with each other, but rather two, almost anonymous people looking into the distance and sending messages off, into the space.
I’ve grown up relying on this medium, and now, reflecting back, it seems kind of insane. During high school I experienced COVID and as a result interacted with all my friends online, rarely seeing them in person. I’ve talked to many friends about this isolated and isolating experience, and the consensus is everyone felt tremendously lonely.
Is it possible to break the habits of overreliance on these devices of false intimacy? What’s so different about meeting someone in person rather than over the social media?
I’ve recently begun to appreciate how important it is having a friend over for dinner. It feels silly citing this direct personal interaction and promoting it as a new manner of social contact, when in reality many of you already know this. Still for my generation it’s a new experience, and one thing I noticed is how mannerisms that cannot be conveyed over phone or video call, are the loudest details you pick up on when you are sitting face to face with someone. Our innate human differences are airbrushed over while on the phone or video call. They may be subtle and seemingly “insignificant,” but when we are enjoying linguine together, they are glaring and fascinating. These small details compose our unique personalities and help to fulfill our human desire for interaction.
When we text, call, skype, we believe we are fully in contact. But just ‘hearing his voice’ or ‘seeing her face on the screen’ or ‘sending a message’ cannot substitute for being in real time with someone in person.
Diego Rodriguez De Silva y Velazquez, Tavern Scene (1618-19), Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
Luka Vivas Nikonorow is a 19 year old New Yorker, currently a student at Bard College.