Has the art of communication been lost? While growing up in the social media era means new avenues of self-expression, the ability to explore different cultures and ideas, and a platform for everyone to speak their mind, it also coincides with a lot of time spent with other teenagers glued to their phones. I recently went on a trip to D.C. with a group of other juniors and seniors where I was given opportunities that others only dream of. I often found myself surrounded by people who, instead of taking in the excitement around them, would rather be Snapchatting away or taking photos for Instagram. It was all about appearances instead of substance; They would rather look like they were having fun than enjoy the opportunities presented to them.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is wonderful for many reasons. I love being able to connect to my cousins living across the globe with the click of a button, or even being able to follow Zac Efron on Instagram. However, when social media trumps real relationships, it’s time for a reality check. Sometimes it feels as if online relationships simulate closeness without the intimacy of the real-world. It can be less frightening to open up to people online, which can be beneficial for people like myself who deal with social anxiety.  When teenagers become uncomfortable with awkwardness and are unwilling to hold a conversation, they turn to the digital world. As a result, the digital world takes issues like social anxiety and exacerbates them. We need to learn to be uncomfortable with silence and awkward pauses in order to connect to one another and to have deeper relationships.

I think romantic relationships especially need to be de-digitized. While social media allows for individuals to meet partners across the globe, it also takes away the closeness and companionship often necessary for real, intimate relationships. Applications like Tinder encourage hook-up culture, basically allowing teens and 20-somethings to experience sexual intimacy without having to deal with the emotional aspect. While some may enjoy the anonymity, the reality is it tends to make people even lonelier than they were before. Most of us crave emotional intimacy and social media oftentimes cannot provide it. In real life, romantic relationships have become more challenging to maintain, or even pursue, because of the dependency on social media and online communication.

Furthermore, most people only post the best versions of themselves online. It can become difficult to find authenticity in online communities when people are only posting bikini pics and inspirational quotes. Authenticity and honesty are essential components in developing genuine relationships. We have to find a balance. We can value conversation and real-world relationships while simultaneously crafting our online presence. We can enjoy the present as we take fun mirror selfies. It is not all or none, especially considering the importance of an online presence in our modern world. However, I challenge you to fully commit to the present. Allow yourself to become immersed in your classes, genuinely ask about your friend’s day, and go outside and breathe in the fresh air. I promise, the real world is better than your twitter feed. And yes, I also expect you to binge watch Gossip Girl every once and a while.