I remember the good old days when I used to go out to dinner with friends, and all we did was talk about the most mundane topics. We would talk about girls, making inappropriate jokes, and debate which Super Smash Bros. character was the most O.P. (over powerful). Nowadays, I can hardly have a meal with people without at least one person browsing Facebook or Twitter from their phone. I admit that even I have committed this travesty before. But since when did social media and technology replace human interaction?
Countless experts have debated this, experts far more intelligent than I am. They will whip out their graphs, data, and number that prove this and that, but all of it is technical jargon to me. At then of they day, I believe this social trend of “Facebook first, friends second” comes down to two key reasons. First, the advent of the smart phone. Second, the roll out of LTE networks, also known as true 4G.
When the iPhone came out what feels like years ago (in actuality only 6), social media arguably experienced its biggest revolution. People gained the ability to view their social networks from their hands wherever they went, whenever they wanted. Smartphones empowered the everyday person. While many will argue that the advent of the smartphone is the source of all our social frustrations in real life settings today, I think smartphones have played a supporting role.
The true criminal at act here is LTE. LTE, in my opinion, has completely changed the way we interact. The downloading speeds users can achieve over LTE is mind boggling. For many customers, LTE will generate a comparable speed to Wi-Fi, if not faster, depending on location, carrier, and what type of Wi-Fi is used. Personally, when I was in New York City, I would turn off Wi-Fi for my iPhone 5 because LTE provided a more stable, faster connection. Overall, the point I am trying to make is that LTE is fast. Extremely fast.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Bev Goodman.
So what does this have to do with using social media on phones when hanging out with friends instead of interacting with them? Well, LTE is so fast that browsing Facebook over an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S4 is practically no different than doing so over a computer (discounting the difference in interfaces). We are essentially getting the same experience as if we were sitting at our desk in our bedrooms stalking friends. Don’t get me the wrong – the advent of smartphones provided us the medium to do this. However, LTE has given us the speed and efficiency that 3G never could. As stated in the previous link, 3G pulled average download speeds of 1.5 Mb/s and even failed the upload test! When I had my iPhone 3G and 4, I never browsed Facebook when I was with my friends because my phone was just too damn slow. It was not worth waiting 10 seconds to open up a friend’s page to comment on their wall.
Of course all of this is a testament to an even greater social shift – that people just love social media, especially Facebook. In the end, smartphones and LTE are merely tools that we take advantage of. They bring out the inner Facebook stalker in us. While this has been a major problem in the U.S., I have noticed that this phenomenon is not as prevalent in the Czech Republic and the rest of Central Europe. This brings me back to LTE. People have access to smartphones here but not to LTE. At least not until recently. A recent article reported that three Czech mobile operators (T-Mobile, O2, and Vodafone) have started offering LTE services and are engaging in an upcoming spectrum auction. For those who do not know, spectrum is essentially what enables operators to provide mobile services. More spectrum means more LTE. It is clear that while late to the party, Central Europe is joining the mobile fray.
This leads me to wonder, now that people will have access to both smartphones and LTE, will social media begin to replace human interaction like it has in the U.S.? Will a Czech guy be posting on his friend’s Timeline when said friend is across the table? No matter how much I want to believe, it is hard to imagine that any country with iPhones and LTE avoiding a similar fate. But then again, social media is not as big as it is here than in the U.S.; Twitter is not nearly as popular in the Czech Republic. At the end of the day, I have no idea how the roll out of LTE will impact the Czech Republic. I have faith in the Czech people, but I’ll leave the rest to the experts. The ones far more intelligent than I am.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr user danielfoster437.