It is no mystery that young people enjoy modern-day technology. Being part of the constantly-scrutinized, social media-addicted generation of today’s youth, I have been able to experience and absorb what it means to have social awkwardness, anxiety, and even shyness in today’s technologically-advanced era. Although I am not proud to say it, many assumptions of millennials or Gen Z kids are somewhat true: many of my friends, including myself, are so wrapped up in applications like Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok that we spend upwards of 10 hours staring at the screen per day. Because of this massive amount of time spent on social media, many of us young people no longer feel the need to say anything to strangers around them, or even familiar faces at school. Thus, real-life social interactions have drastically changed, with conversations and hang-outs being entirely overtaken by phones and technology, and getting to know strangers is almost seen as an unfamiliar concept.
One day I was talking to family members at the dinner table. We were talking about how we no longer feel comfortable saying, “Hi!” to strangers or getting to know someone on the subway or making friends with the cashier at your local supermarket. This challenged me to want to change, to want to be more sociable. Especially in my own social anxiety, I felt the need to go out and be friendly. So on a trip to Hawaii, arguably the most friendly state in the US, I attempted to be more open, sociable, and overall talkative when it came to strangers that I interacted with. Perhaps it was my own issue, but I found myself uncomfortable and scared of getting to know these people without knowing who they were, where they came from, what their names were, what school they went to, or any other information you could gather from a social media profile. I was so used to already having a preconceived notion about someone that I wasn’t used to just making friends.
While I do have many friends that are social butterflies, capable of making friends with just about anybody, there is a vast majority of us that simply struggle to start conversations. Without the security of hiding behind a screen and presenting your best self in Instagram photos, I worry that people won’t really want to get to know me. The art of true human connection and its spontaneity has somewhat been lost. It has no longer become an act of happenstance, getting to know people has become a game, a strategy that needs to be figured out. Without bonding through hilarious TikToks or memes or snap stories, I urge you to ask yourself this question: “What relationships would I still have?”
Socializing has become a difficulty for many of us Gen Z’ers and millennials. Without the comfort of a phone and internet, we can sometimes feel lost, not knowing what we should do, not knowing if we should look up and smile at someone on the bus. But you are not alone, as we all languish in the same nervous stare down at the glass screen in our hands, just waiting for someone to ignore us.