Facebook Is Making You Awkward

Have you noticed how the word “awkward” is being used to describe people a lot more than it used to? Did you ever stop to consider that it might be because everyone is getting more AWKWARD?

Think of your social skills as a muscle, like your triceps, or your coccygeus. Every time you have a pleasant conversation while simultaneously moving your personal ambition forward, the muscle is flexed. Even when you sneeze on somebody or take off your clothes in public, by learning from the results, your social skills are improved. But in this wonderful new world of screen and disk, people are alone way more often, even, hilariously enough, when they’re socializing, which leaves their social muscles to shrivel and shrink. The presence of other humans in our lives is becoming noticeably obsolete. The more we’re alone, the less we can gauge the social acceptability of our actions, and the less able we are to have normal, fulfilling relationships with other human beings.

Five years ago nobody used Facebook, just for example, because it didn’t exist. Before social networking websites, if you wanted to know if someone was single, you had to ask, or notice them making out with this one other person a lot. You couldn’t find out that you liked the same shitty punk band as somebody else unless you knew them and spoke with them at length. Now, the embarrassing chore of getting to know another member of your most glorious species has been streamlined yet again. It’s been made obsolete by modern “communication” technology to that point where nobody actually has to communicate. The more you express yourself through textual messages and web logs, the less likely you can deal with that primitive notion of the seen-and-heard human.

Here’s a good example: in World War One, offensive technology (machine guns and airplanes and so on) had so rapidly developed that defensive tactics had not developed in step, and the best anybody could do to defend themselves was dig a hole in the ground and hope for the best. I think something very similar is happening now. Communication technology is growing at a nightmarish pace, where it is literally impossible not to own and use completely obsolete devices. Social skills, for some reason, have not developed in step at all, though, and now we hear stories about people who break up with each other, not by sitting down and having a talk, but simply by listing themselves as ‘single’ on Facebook.

People use Facebook so they don’t have to tell anyone anything. They use it to tell everyone anything. Now it's literally inconvenient to update individuals about yourself anymore. The relationship between two people is becoming less common than the relationship between one person and everybody they know.

I quit Facebook a couple months ago because I didn’t believe the idea that humans now depend on websites to mediate their social lives, but I’m beginning to fear that I’m dreadfully wrong. I feel like I’m falling through the cracks for having quit because we’re all sort of responsible for keeping ourselves visible in this world of distraction, and any effort to the opposite effect essentially expunges us from the universe. This is a terrible blow for western civilization, and I believe genuinely that a breakdown in communication of such hideous rapidity will be the end of our society.

If we humans have become this dependent this quickly on electronic devices to mediate our socialization, to mediate one of the fundamental aspects of what it means to be human, then I don’t want to be a human anymore. I’ll accept being left behind by my race while their pace quickens maddeningly until they are totally unable to comprehend both each other and themselves. I may already have been left behind, but at least it was my choice. I soon might no longer be understood by my race, but at least I'll know why.