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Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Aug 22 / Rommel

Emotions, or lack thereof, and social media

I’m addicted to social media.

Like sleepy, texting zombies…

I admit it, I’m not ashamed. Most of us have some sort of social media addiction and that constant need for updates/posts/pictures/etc. has us checking our mobile devices every so often. Everywhere I look, I notice people with their heads lowered, staring at their screens with blank, emotionless faces. Once in a while, people will burst with emotion but then they go right back to their stoic state.

There’s an article in CNN that showcases the photography of Zack Arias which shows people “lost in their phone.” You can check out Mr. Arias’ photos here.

This got me thinking: Do we expend all our emotions into our social media posts?

On the Internet, we can be witty, or funny, maybe even sarcastic, sometimes hateful, etc., but I can’t help notice that when we make these witty/funny/sarcastic/hateful comments online, we (I can vouch for myself) remain emotionless for the most part.  Am I the only one that does this?

When I find something funny online, I don’t react with a smile. Instead, I react by commenting “Hah!” in the comments section. I feel like some sort of emotionless robot when I do this…

Do we funnel our emotions into the Internet? Does the Internet act as an emotional focusing stone where we pour all of our feelings into what we are writing/posting/tweeting online?

I have a theory that points out two aspects about social media that might explain this:

Aspect 1: No visual cue

As fast as our Internet connections are, nothing beats the instantaneous reactions of face-to-face communication. Not having that visual cue, we can temper our responses (to some degree) with as much time as we need. This makes us less reactionary and more deliberate.

Aspect 2: Energy use

Not the kind that uses battery life, but the one that you use to type in your response. We spend more energy using mental and motor skills to come up with a clever/mean/happy response that we don’t really need to waste more on expressing the emotion.

The most important is the visual cue. Without anyone receiving that instant feedback, we don’t put any emphasis conveying emotion. Why would we need to? Our mobile devices don’t react to our facial expressions…at least, not yet anyways.

If you still don’t believe me. Please refer back to your last post and ask yourself if you physically displayed the same exuberance, disgust, sarcasm, etc. as your recent blog post/tweet/status update/share/etc. If you did, I’d like hear back from you. I was starting to fear a world where emotions are encapsulated into one-word responses and memes.

This has been another rambling from me and I will see you next time, kids!

Full disclosure: I wrote this while staring indifferently into a computer screen.