How Instagram Bridges The Digital Divide

instameetgville shooters

Putting the smartphone down is no small feat.

It’s the Millennial generation’s ball and chain. We never go anywhere without it. It tells us where to go, what to do, whom to follow and how to do anything.

What can’t the digital provide for us?

The Digital Divide

Community is becoming less about actual relationships and more about appearing to be interconnected.

Social etiquette is getting markedly worse, and many blame our immersion in all things digital. Some of the time, I’m part of the problem, too.

There’s even something called “electronic displays of insensitivity.” This is serious.

Sitting down to dinner with family is peppered with checking our social media feeds. Low moments in conversations with friends mean we browse the web for something more interesting. There’s no more sitting in silence and reflection and observing the world around us.

We don’t need to see what’s around us because the computers in our pockets will tell us.

Turning The Tide

Deep down, we all know the digital world can’t fully supplant the analog one, even if we don’t exactly say so. The benefits of digital connections are ease, comfortable distance, and showing our best behavior (and selfies) for all to see online. But there’s an unavoidable sense buried in each of us that tells us we need relationships face to face, not just profile to profile.

The digital connection trend seems to be an inevitably far-reaching one, but there are some going against the grain.

Analog isn’t dead. Reality’s still alive and well.

instameetgville group

Instameeting and Greeting

I recently attended an Instameet in Greenville, South Carolina.

Instameets are causal social events planned and attended by users on Instagram. They meet up at a location, associate faces with digital profiles, and walk around taking pictures and getting to know each other.

Such social events have been occurring across North America for several years now, as Instagram even promotes a few particular meet-ups and encourages users to meet each other in person.

During the Greenville event, I met about a dozen people from South Carolina and North Carolina. We met at a central location, introduced ourselves, walked around downtown Greenville, and ate lunch together. The whole time, we took photos to post on Instagram with the hashtag #instameetgville, got to know each other more through conversations and stories and finding common connections we had online and in person.

We all shared a love for mobile photography (not surprising — it is an event for Instagram), and were all firmly in the Millennial generation (ages 14 to 30). A few of the people I met:

  • A college student who wants to help free women from sex-trafficking
  • A documentary filmmaker for non-profit organizations
  • A woman who wants loves the Middle East and wants to build friendships with Muslims
  • A couple who are moving to Australia for outdoor leadership programs and publishing
  • An events director for a humanitarian non-profit organization

It was a group diverse in interests and career paths, but there were more pronounced similarities, too.

Three more things everyone at the Instameet had in common:

  1. They want to make a difference in the world.
  2. They believe it’s important to connect with people face to face, not just through a smartphone app.
  3. They are Christians.

I left that Instameet encouraged by the true friendliness of real humans, not just the nice appearance of photos on an app. I plan to attend more Instameets as they’re planned because I need constant reminders that the best way to learn about people is not to peruse a news feed but to listen to their stories, up close and personal.

Bridging the Digital Divide

In an age where communal bonds are undergoing such a radical paradigm shift, it’s vital to remember the digital can only do so much.

People still need people.

The Internet provides us with connections to so many ideas and user profiles, but every soul needs more than a screen to interact with. Face to face will always trump technology when it comes to real relationships, no matter how far we advance.

 

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Do you think connections made online or through social media are as beneficial as face-to-face relationships?

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Related Articles:

Instagram and the Comparison Trap
Community in the Digital Age
Disconnecting To Be More Connected

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