ANNA’S CORNER: Poet Gary Turk’s criticism of social media goes too far

Like most teenagers, my go-to method of relieving boredom is the Internet. It’s the quickest way for me to amuse myself, but there are other ways I’d rather spend my time.

For a lot of people this isn’t the case. I have friends who truly love the Internet, and I can understand why. It’s incredible that we have instant access not only to information, but to the thoughts and opinions of millions of people. In general, I see all the new ways we have of communicating with each other as good things.

So even as someone who’s not particularly attached to the Internet, I was annoyed when I saw a video called “Look Up,” by Gary Turk.

It’s a poem is about how, by spending our time communicating with people virtually, we shut out the important people in our lives. At first, I agreed with the message; nothing is more depressing than hanging out with a group of people who are all staring at their phones.

But I’m not sure the author really thought through all of the points he made. He portrays young people as entirely isolated, saying “Be there for your friends. They’ll be there, too. But no one will be if a group message will do.” I don’t know about other people, but I’ve never been in a situation where I suggested hanging out and my friends said “Let’s just text instead.”

As the poem continued, I really began to feel like it was going overboard. It relates a story in which a man gets lost, and instead of looking at a map on his phone, stops an attractive lady to ask her for directions. They fall in love and live happily ever after.

It wasn’t an argument I found particularly convincing. Someone could just as easily make up a story about two people falling in love after meeting on a dating site and use it to advocate for spending all your time on the Internet.

I think where I fundamentally disagree with Gary Turk is in his idea that social media is making us less social. The Internet has augmented face-to-face conversation, not replaced it. I fail to see the problem with having “virtual” conversations in addition to normal ones.

I’m not the ideal person to explain the value of the Internet as a means of communication. I don’t have any friends I met online, and on social networking sites I’m something of a wallflower. I haven’t posted anything on Facebook in months. But I do know that there have been plenty of times I’ve been incredibly grateful for social media, whether it’s because I needed a quick answer to a homework question or I wanted to talk to a friend who lives on another continent.

Some of the more interesting conversations I’ve had in my life have been typed. I don’t talk to people online because I’m lonely and isolated, as “Look Up” would have people believe, but because it’s impossible to see all my friends all the time. Having more than one way to communicate has made my relationships better, not worse.

And some of my friends truly value relationships they have with people they’ve never met in person. I don’t think anyone has a right to say that these friendships are somehow less real than others.

Of course, the majority of the time people should put down their phones, close their computers, and pay attention to the people around them. It’s rude to pay more attention to a device than a human. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be social in new ways.


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