On Cagbalete Island, there is a woman who has no time. Literally. When I asked her for the time, she told me, “Wala kaming orasan.”
Can you imagine a life without time? Being free from the bounds of regular society? The closest we ever get to living “off the grid” is a weekend trip to the beach where we switch off our phones for a few hours to have some semblance of being “disconnected” from the machine.
So many people crave freedom but have you ever noticed how quickly they switch back to their “programmed selves” as soon as they return to reality? Some can’t even wait to leave the island to log onto their Facebook accounts and check out their news feed, thinking they would miss an important post from someone.
When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed to have toys at the table at dinner time. We would all sit together and talk and enjoy one another’s company. Even if it wasn’t all that interesting, it was still the only time of day we got to discuss whatever was going on in our lives.
When cell phones started to become popular, it was first considered rude to use the devices at the table. Imagine my surprise when I started to notice that there were families in restaurants sitting together and eating but completely ignoring each other because they were using their devices, sometimes even with a pair of headphones on. When did we stop communicating with each other?
Due to the pressures of a social media heavy society, I have seen parents cave in to the draw of Facebook. They add their kids as their “friends” and like their posts in a desperate attempt to reconnect with them. It is an admirable effort but it also perpetuates the way Facebook has entered our lives.
I deleted my Facebook account recently. The shock on people’s faces when I tell them that I did this is funny. Some go as far as to tell me, “It’s okay. You can always go back. Your account doesn’t get deleted anyway.” They say this as if Facebook is such an integral part of our lives that it would be unthinkable to let it go. It’s honestly refreshing not knowing what’s going on in people’s “Facebook lives.” The lives we think are worthy of being posted online or at least what we’re comfortable showing our so-called friends.
Not a lot of people notice how Facebook has encouraged a digital sense of narcissism. You can become a pseudo celebrity with up to 5,000 people you can call your “friends.” Those people who will “like” and share the things you have thought about or come across on any given day. Facebook triggers our natural social instinct for validation and instant gratification on a digital platform. The Internet as a whole satisfies our desires almost instantly.
Also, with the constant bombardment of updates, people’s attention spans have become much shorter. Instead of focusing on important or pertinent topics and events, we passively scan over those if we’re not interested in them.
We have also become so addicted with our online world that we started to neglect the people who are actually around us (i.e. family, kids, partners, and friends). In fact, we have become so involved with the internet that we’ve forgotten to create rules for something so engrained into our society.
Those of us who were introduced to the Internet at an older age and have seen it progress have a slightly better understanding of what the Internet actually is. It can be summed up as “A bunch of people who are interconnected over a digital medium.” The operative word being “PEOPLE!” The younger generations, however, have lost or weren’t taught this awareness. They were born into the age of the Internet. Many of them are accustomed to using electronic devices early on as parents used these gadgets to pacify kids while they dealt with other things.
And while the younger generations have learned to navigate cyberspace and technology better than their parents, the skill that they aren’t able to develop is how to live and function in the real world. Children of the information age are incredibly intelligent but because of their constant use of the Internet they have forgotten how to talk to people regularly. They don’t know how interact with one another without technology being a bridge for social interactions. They are living virtually with each other and skewing their perspective on things that are important and what relationships with other people actually entail. I strongly believe that most kids are more comfortable chatting on Facebook than they are communicating with one another in “face-to-face” encounters.
When the Internet first went public, people were incredibly wary of everything online. “Be careful. You don’t know who might be on there. There are all kinds of strangers who could be trying to stalk you. Don’t give out all your information too willingly.” These were some of the warnings back then. However, it seems it was all too easy to coax us into believing that because everybody was doing it, then it must be safe. We have neglected to teach kids on how to use the internet and how to understand the information they are absorbing online. (Which nowadays, is absolutely everything.) We have even given up trying to stop kids from accessing things because, if they want to find it, they will. And nowadays, we let them hand out their information like there are no dangers at all.
This is particularly dangerous in a society like ours where many subjects are taboo—such sex, drugs, and even our personal problems. We as a culture have been taught to “save face” and not to divulge our personal grievances in public, primarily due to our fear of “shame” that branches out of our culturally inherited pahiya complex.
The revolution of the Internet has also made the existence of our very conservative culture a volatile one. We still do not want to talk about things that are taboo. But it has brought fads like “the duck face,” “twerking,” and “YOLO” to our shores and its brought a whole lot of confusion with it, too.
The lack of proper education on online use is not helping us, and even more so the younger generations. They are left to discover and experiment with their “friends” online. And most of the time they don’t even know who these people are and have no awareness of the fact that they could be someone who could do them harm. Other times they are talking to their friends but they have just as little information about what they’re going through. Some would find information on a blog they read online and think “it must be true.”
Up until this point you have probably been wondering why a 28-year-old believes she has any insight into this topic. So, I will shed some light on my experience. I’m a guest on a show that gives relationship advice and also have an ask.fm account where people ask me questions anonymously so that I can give them unbiased advice. The majority of people I end up getting questions from are young people, and their questions vary from: “Is it okay that I’m a bisexual?” to “I love my boyfriend so much, he treats me very badly but I still love him and I can’t leave him, what should I do?” to “I’m 12 and my girlfriend is 12 and we have a lot of sex, is this okay?” to “We want to try anal sex, how do we go about it?” to my favorite “I’m pregnant, my boyfriend doesn’t want to take care of the baby, I don’t know how to tell my parents, help me please.”
As shocking as it may seem, these things are real. These kids are reaching out to me, a total stranger, because they have no one else to ask. They are also reaching out to those 4,500 people they’ve never met but have added on Facebook to understand something about the real world that the Internet cannot teach them. They have access to all the information they could ever want, but without the proper guidance, the consequences can be dire.
Social media has become such a big deal in our lives that it causes problems in relationships as well. The number of couples I have heard fighting because of something stupid that happened on a social media platform is really ridiculous, considering Facebook is meant to be a tool for keeping people in touch. Families don’t speak to each other because they are too busy paying attention to their friends online. People even have to assign themselves time away from the social network because they have been spending too much time on it.
What do we do online exactly? How does it translate into the real world? It may seem like a minor problem, but recently, society has exposed the problems it has developed because of its affair with social media. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is “right,” and people are jumping on the bandwagon wherever they feel like it, even when they aren’t sure of the validity of the issues. The line between personal opinion and hard facts has become so blurry that people have convinced themselves their opinions are the truth. They are adamant about them and convince their peers to do the same.
What happens then? People get confused. Their values get skewed because there is no authority on what is right or wrong. And no one is up to the task of teaching them. The Internet moves so fast that we’re trying to catch up ourselves as well.
I’m not saying social media is a bad thing. In fact, it’s great. All I’m saying is that we need to understand that it’s time we took back control of what happens to us and our society. We don’t NEED these things. We survived for a long time so very well without them. The woman in Cagbalete is proof that we don’t even need time to be able to live our everyday lives. So, why have we let it get beyond our control?
We can’t cling to old cultural and social habits if we expect to progress in “the new age.” But we don’t have to change completely, we just need to learn to adapt. It’s time we accepted the challenges of the digital age and learned how to overcome them. But we must keep an integral part of ourselves anchored in who we are. We need to be strong in our values and true to our character by embracing the wisdom of the older generations, while cultivating the creativity and intelligence of the new generation.