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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
<p>"<span><a href="" target="_blank">Rome, Italy, view from the top of the hill next to the Coloseum</a>" by <a href="" target="_blank">Moyan Benn</a>,&nbsp;used under <a href="" target="_blank">CC BY 2.0</a></span></p>

Have you ever considered the effect social media has on you? Can you go one day without checking your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts? Almost everyone I know, including myself, has one of these applications on their smartphones. We want people to know all about our lives (the good, filtered parts of course) and "like" it.

We get to a point where social media becomes something that either boosts or breaks our confidence. We might ask questions like, "Why does she have more likes than me?" or "How did they get so many followers when I only have five?”. How did we let an inanimate object become a judge of how awesome we are? Why did we give social media such control over our mentality and society?

Slowly, this impersonal method of communication has become the norm for many, alongside texting, on how to connect with others. The days of paid phone calls and handwritten letters or long, lengthy emails are almost obsolete. I have had guys ask me out over Facebook, I have seen girls break up with their boyfriends over Facebook, and, among many other shocking exchanges, I have seen the infamous funeral selfie. When did this become okay?

Now, do not get me wrong; social media has its benefits that include but are not limited to, keeping in contact with friends that live far away or joining millions of groups that involve UF. However, it has slowly lessened our ability to communicate face-to-face and has even distorted the definition of a 'friend'. A friend is someone you care for and trust. A Facebook "friend" is someone you met once, although the meeting is blurry, and decided to have a relationship that involves creeping on one another's lives. As far as face-to-face is concerned, why talk in person when you can send a simple Facebook message, right?

As I have observed the Italian people over the course of six weeks, something noticeably different between the American and Italian cultures has come to my attention. The people here do not always have their eyes fixed onto a phone screen, and, when I do see a phone in someone's hand, it is usually pressed to their ear as they enjoy an important phone call. I hardly see people glued to their phones on buses, while they are driving, while they are walking, when they are around friends, and ESPECIALLY not in restaurants.

Eating is sacred here in Italy, and while you eat, you are to appreciate your food in front of you and concentrate on what is going on around you. The Italian version of Facebook is actually meeting up with people and talking- who knew that was still a thing? Italian culture is very personal, they do not put the same weight on personal space as we do and they prefer to communicate with others in person. Only when you communicate face-to-face can you get a true grip on who the person standing across from you really is. There is no distance between you and everything is out in the open, not hidden behind the charade of a Facebook profile. 

If you want to receive the pleasure that true companionship brings, then you can start by talking, actually talking with people. It can be as simple as a hello to someone passing by you on the sidewalk. Put your phone away on the bus and at the dinner table. You will be surprised by who you meet and what you learn when you spend less time picking a filter and more time picking the words that come out of your mouth.

"Rome, Italy, view from the top of the hill next to the Coloseum" by Moyan Benn, used under CC BY 2.0

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