Like. Follow. Share. What did these words mean before they were red circles on a screen? Can you hear the word “scroll” and think of anything but staring ahead and flexing your fingers? How long has it been since that word evoked imagery of a long sheet of parchment etched with ancient words?
How long would it take to scroll to the beginning of the internet?
Millions of posts have been written, posted and shared since we feared the year 2000 was going to destroy technology. And I still remember New Years Eve 1999, being ten years old and watching the countdown with the family desktop in the corner of my eye, wondering if it would explode, never turn on again, or what.
But it did turn on. And was probably never turned off again.
The point being…well, I’m not quite sure what exactly the point I’m trying to make is. There have been enough articles written about how glued we are to our screens and the effects already being shown of the dangers of it. But none of those articles, I think, have been completely honest.
Packs of cigarettes tell you that they’ll give you cancer, right? Beer bottles warn you not to drink and drive, your coffee cup tells you that it’s hot…
…and here’s the first online article telling you to look away from your screen.
Not that it’s medically bad for you (though it probably is), but there’s something about liking, commenting, following and sharing in real life that just isn’t the same as what they mean online. Found a new musician you like online? Don’t just follow them on Twitter, make your way to their concert the next time they’re in town. Did your friend post a photo of their fancy lunch that you “liked”? Why not let them know in person how great that looked? Maybe they’ll recommend another dish or another restaurant.
At this point, our online lives are no different from our offline lives. A hateful comment posted online is just as hurtful as one said in person. And maybe following a band on Twitter is enough to let them know you’re a fan. Let’s never forget that behind each account (well, most accounts), every comment and share is a person. Another human, just like you, staring through glass at an ever-expanding new world.
A hundred other people will post the same blurry concert photo you took. Dozens others will halfheartedly post “Happy birthday” on your friend’s wall. But not everyone will send a message to the band telling them how much their favourite song means to them. And only your closest friends will be there—in real life—on your birthday.
Your fingerprint is loaded into your phone but has it touched the door to that new coffee shop you’ve been wanting to try after seeing your friend’s photo? Has it grabbed a leaf off the tree in the park down the street you’ve never explored?
Are your days just scrolling by as you scroll through the same twenty articles posted twenty different times? Look away from the screen and go outside. Read a book made of paper and ink, go for a walk without worrying about sharing your step-count, take a photo that will last more than ten seconds, call a friend to wish them happy birthday, write them a letter that’s longer than 140 characters.
The possibilities are infinite.