5 Ways Chat Apps are Ruining your Life
5. You’re just another brick in the wall
Your best friend just got the days off you were hoping they would. The trip is on! Quick, write something that shows your excitement. Let me guess, you wrote something like this “✈️ 🕶 🏖”
Yeah, you and about 100 million other people. Maybe you’re supper savvy and chose the perfect GIF. Either way you inserted a rectangular group of colors onto someone else’s screen. We’ve traded facial expressions, hand gestures, intonation, ironic smirks and more…for Helvetica in a colored bubble.
In the example above, the only hope of personalizing my excitement is in which emoji/sticker/gif I choose. It’s more obligation at this point than raw expression. Bummer.
4. They’re making you aloof (not in a cool way)
Communication apps allow us to stay connected with people without having to actually pay attention to those people. Before smart phones, only kings were this aloof. “Yes, I’m speaking with you, but I’m also busy entertaining myself. Deal with it.”
We only get away with it because we all took the same deal. You probably aren’t a super-busy King, but now we have literally billions of people acting like they are.
This casual lack of attention/interest seems cool if you’re the only one doing it. But when the whole planet communicates this way, you get entitlement with more volume and less clarity. Fun!
3. We’re still animals, baby
As much as the frontal lobe of our brain loves to think that it’s in charge, the reptile part is what makes you dance, laugh, lust, rage, and cry.
Chat apps are tools for frontal lobes to talk to each other. They deal in facts and ideas, and can move those facts and ideas across the world in split second. Very impressive, but misses about half of the reason people actually communicate.
As one of my favorite authors says, “Shared joy is increased, shared pain is lessened.” When you want to share joy with someone, you should be able to actually share in the joy with them. Not just send them ideas about joy. The current selection of chat apps aren’t doing you any favors here. The old reptile part of your brain sighs when it sees another GIF of people dancing. It doesn’t want to think about the concept of dancing, it wants to dance and be danced with.
2. Evolution can’t keep up
As humans, we’ve succeeded all over the world because of community. We developed languages, tools, laws, and buildings, and we did over 99% of this in a world without texting.
We learned to detect sadness from facial expressions. We’ve learned to laugh when someone almost gets hurt. We’ve learned oration to drive a swell of action for important causes. We did all of these things standing a few feet from each other — where we could see each other’s eyes, hands and lips.
Talking to someone over chat is a bit like talking to a friend with a plastic bag over your head. Everyone sounds and looks the same, and you can’t rely on the evolutionary skills your brain has. However, your brain still happily interprets this limited input and is more than willing to trigger anger, confusion, jealously, indignation, almost always to ill effect. Why do we keep letting these apps put us through the emotional wringer?
1. A GIF is not a hug
Let’s face it, we don’t get to live forever (yet). We communicate with friends and loved ones to lessen pain and increase joy. Messaging is horrible for those occasions though. It’s good for picking a restaurant, finding out when a flight lands, or asking for a PDF from a co-worker.
During my wedding, my father asked the photographer to get a picture of him and I hugging. I thought the request was out of the ordinary, so I asked him about it. He said he couldn’t ever remember hugging his dad at all. So he wanted something to remember hugging me.
It’s one of my favorite pictures now. No, you can’t see it, it’s mine. We all have memories like that in our head. And they were formed with the part of you that benefitted from countless centuries of socialization.
If an app can let me share joy like that, my wallet is open.