We all know what social media is. In case you don’t, according to Webster, it’s “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking,” (2019). Summed up, it’s those websites that let us stay “connected” to other humans in the digital age. I often feel it begs the question, are we really connected?
The studies completed are far too few to mount any definitive answer but we can say this, Young Adults who spend significant (although I’d like to know how much significant is) time on platforms like Instagram and Facebook were shown to have anywhere between 13% and 66% higher reported rates of depression. There is a difference between correlation and causation and this is worth mentioning. Is it social media, or is it access to smartphones? Is it simply the digital age and how disconnected we actually are as a species? Technology in all its wonder and glory has paved the way for substitution of real human interaction. It has provided us with a plethora of other ways to stay connected but where is the balance?
I was going through my Facebook account recently and this is what I’ve found.
- I have 441 “friends” – most of which I don’t interact with but all of whom I actually know. I could easily remove half of them without noticing. I don’t talk to these people but am connected because our paths have crossed for a period of time in the past. Or maybe we’re “connected” because of a shared love of writing. None of this is bad, but most of these people aren’t present in my day to day life. It gives me pause.
- I’m followed by 54 people I don’t know – although my account is fairly locked down, they don’t actually get to see anything… I think that’s weird. Why the draw to follow someone you don’t know or have no regular interaction with? I am not a celebrity. I am no one special. It also gives me pause.
- I have a couple of thousand photos. Things I’ve taken over the years and moments I love. I’m sure I have these all somewhere, but here in one location are the best of the best. Moments I’m fond of and felt the need to share. Side note, does anyone know how to download them in one fail swoop? I think Shutterfly is due an order.
- In the last year, I’ve posted only photos or things my students have said which I found funny. I do not interact often online. I rarely share things, outside of something I’ve created or logged as funny for later. This is not good or bad. It simply is.
- I don’t read news articles virtually ever via this webpage. If I want news, I go to my paid subscriptions to the NYT, Wired, and Scientific America. I do my own research via people, organizations, or educational studies I trust. I am hesitant to take things at face value and would rather do the research myself before I blindly believe anything. The onslaught of bullshit is not worth my time. My time is more valuable than that. I am more valuable than that. I am willing to pay real money to support the people who produce well researched and valuable articles to the world.
I often think about deleting my account. Or some variant thereof. Like deleting my info but keeping the messenger aspect as a tool to communicate with several people whom I only text via that application. Or just saying fuck it, and deleting it all anyway. I don’t really use it. I haven’t really had FB on my phone in years. I can’t even access it through the internet on my phone – my security settings are too high and prevent this from being an easy option on purpose.
Once upon a time, I used to spend far too much time on social media, television and basically doing things that added no value to my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love television, and I enjoyed social media at the time… But I sat down one day and did the math on how much of my life I traded for an application. For a “connection” I wasn’t really feeling in the first place. I was not thrilled with these numbers. They were astoundingly high and I became a bit sad at the thought. That was the day I deleted FaceBook from my phone. I didn’t need to waist my life with my head down when there was a whole world I was missing out on.
I feel incredibly strongly about looking up from electronic devices. Whether it’s from social media or games. As I ask my niece and nephew often, “What’s more important, people or electronics?” They grumble, set their tablets down and answer, “People,” every single time. Because that’s the truth of the matter, people are more important than anything you’re going to find on your phone or computer. If that person is not important, why are you wasting your time? If they are, then maybe it’s time to reassess where your values are. When I’m with the people I love and care about, I want to give them my attention. My time and attention are one of the most valuable things I can give someone.
I don’t give it lightly. I stop giving it if I can’t trust someone or I feel betrayed by them. But if it’s a symbodic relationship, I want to give you my attention when we are together. I expect the same in return. It bugs me to no end, watching people who set out to “connect” with another human but choose instead to “connect” with someone or something digitally instead, noses so deep in their phones life passes them by. Why? What are you getting out of that phone that is more valuable than the person you’re sitting across from?
I have Instagram on my phone. I follow people who create art. I love reading comics online and viewing beautiful pictures. The world is filled with so much beauty, I just want to see as much of it as possible without forgetting to go out and find it with my own eyes. I have the productivity tracker on my phone and in case you’re curious I average 21 minutes a day on Instagram. Most of which is spent uploading my own art. My own moments captured and which I want to share with the world. I am okay with this number. I enjoy what I get out of it, without it feeling like I’ve wasted days of my life.
I’m not saying there is a right or wrong way to use social media. But for me, this is my truth. I am a happier, more engaged person when I remember life outside of a cellphone. When I remember to make real connections with the people in my life instead of misplacing value on something digital.