It’s time we talk about our social media problem.
I hate social media. And when I say hate, I loathe with a passion. I need it for my role in ways, and I genuinely mean it is a necessity. As a writer, part of your stock and capital nowadays is how frequently you can get published online and your page views, your shares, your digital presence. As a speaker, it is also important for me to use these tools to interact with my audiences.
Besides this, I hate social media. Especially the extremes, because the longer I spend with social media, the further and further I see the topic becoming something that isn’t going away and only worsening.
My train of thought began after watching the women at the Diamondbacks game take selfie after selfie, prompting an argument in my news feed amongst peers whether or not these women were shallow or being objectified. It went from there to the place where people on both sides began taking the national tragedy in Oregon and turning it into talking points through the form of status updates and gun control memes. And it ended as I went out in public for the chance to write and watched more people on their phones than interacting with the person next to them.
I understand social media is a part of our society and here to stay. Yes, I have seen good sides of these tools. I know there is good that comes from these pieces. But I know there are other things we have inherited with social media. And we must be aware of these things, least they consume us, least they transform us, least they break us. When using social media, it would do us well to remember the following. And to consider these as reasons where it might be time to curb our social media use.
1. Online Interactions Will Never Replace Interpersonal
People are becoming addicted to their technology. This fact is not just interpersonal but reflected in studies discussing how often we must use our mobile technology on a daily basis. You go out in public, and you see it. Groups of people on their phones. These people surround themselves with peers but they can’t put down their tech. They sometimes spend more time Snapchatting and Instagramming and texting than they do talking. The beauty in social media is it can connect us to people not in front of us. But, at the same time, we cannot neglect the people in front of us. When we neglect the people around us for people who are not, we are making a clear stance.
“Your time is not as valuable as mine or my peers.”
The problem with always being on your phone and not engaging the people around you is that yes, you could be talking to the love of your through text, but the people in your presence still deserve your attention. We should never neglect those around. The fleeting pings of social media are never as fulfilling as interpersonal interaction. Because studies have found over time, that we crave social interactions. Our body needs interpersonal connections to thrive. Community has extreme power in preventing things like mental illness and addiction. We cannot give up the interpersonal community in favor of an online one.
2. The Lives Presented on Social Media are Fake
Not everything online is a scam. Social media has provided us a power, however. It allows us to manufacture a story regardless of the truth. It is easy to present a manufactured life with the right lens and filter. Here is the thing: appearing to have fun at out and about is completely different than enjoying the moment when you are experiencing it. I know people who constantly worry about what other people are doing. They check other people’s social media. They base their worth on what so-n-so is posting and not what they are doing. They talk about how they are missing out because someone else is posting pictures of a place they want to visit and obsess over the lives others are living.
And instead of creating an adventure, all they are doing is consuming the adventure of others, spending more time pining away for what others have instead of creating a life they would are proud of. By obsessing over other people’s social media lives, we miss out on our own.
The other secret is that those people might not be having as much fun as you think. You don’t know what is going on in someone’s mind. Their internal monolog. Some of the happiest seeming people can be miserable inside. Basing your life because of the perspective other people put on social media is an awful decision. Not everything you see online is what it seems. We can fabricate lives, and so often, social media forces us to do. We should be careful about how much stock we place in what someone shares online only and we have to stop the envy of what other people are manufacturing.
3. No One Changes Their Mind Because of What We Post
I know tons of people who post about the way other people are thinking and how groups with divergent views are entirely too wrong their opposing views. Here is the thing about this: no one ever changed their mind because of the meme you posted on Facebook. Your impassioned status and changing your profile picture doesn’t do much. It actually like can hurt you in proving your point.
We exist in a world where there is such a thing called confirmation bias. What this means is we surround ourselves with the people who support our views. We are comforted by the viewpoints we cling to. Fighting with people on social media is silly, it causes noise, and it doesn’t ever create any change. No matter how well reasoned your post, I highly doubt the target of your scorn took the time to feel your passion. In rare cases yes, but rarely are we in a world where we are convincing someone of something based on what we post about them or towards them online.
4. Your Social Media Use is Selfish (And Ruining Other People’s Time)
About two years ago I was at a concert. After countless moments of people taking pictures of the stage and show- flash included in our dark amphitheater- the singer Dallas Greene made a statement I loved. He told the audience “Alright now I see your phones so here is what I want you to do. I want everyone in the concert to take out your phones. Now show me the light. Now everyone put them away and enjoy the moment.”
I love that he stopped to do this. I love that he stopped to do this because the thing you don’t always realize when you are constantly posting is that your social media posts, your constant phone use, they are ruining other people’s experience. Because when we are at a concert, the last thing I want is to see your tiny screen constantly lighting up. I choose not to use my phone in public, to constantly not live on my phone. That is my choice. You are also making yours.
The difference is that your choice impacts mine. Me not being on my phone doesn’t impact your world poorly at all. Yours impacts mine and everyone around us. You are selfish when you cannot stop engaging. When you don’t give up your social media, you are impacting the people around you without them having the capabilities to make a decision. And it is selfish and sometimes, it is ruining other people’s experience.
I remember going to famous art shows. The worst thing in the world when you can sometimes barely even see the art in between all the pictures and the selfies. If this is a once in a lifetime thing then make it a once in a lifetime thing and don’t require a picture to remind you of the inspiration you felt. Your iPad is blocking the Mona Lisa, but the picture you are taking isn’t any better than what is found online.
5. We Need to Disconnect
This last thing we must realize, it doesn’t just come from me. It comes from studies and research and information we are seeing. We are seeing studies and surveys that show us how social media use is making us feel even more lonely, how it is causing us to disconnect from the people around us. We are seeing surveys about how constantly being on your phone around others is causing us to exist in a world where the result is we are beginning to feel depressed as a result of it. Constant phone use amongst partners is hurting relationships. We have information about how constantly being on social media causes us to be in a place where we are missing out on the moment and the experience.
Time and time again, when we are studying social media use, we are finding more and more information declaring how bad social media for the human spirit, especially when in comes to interpersonal interactions.
With more and more studies like this emerging, why are we not addressing social media in our life? Why are we not talking with each other about our online behaviors? Why are we not addressing these issues?
If someone in our life is going through a situation where they are hurting themselves, many of us are willing to step in. If someone in our life was going through a behavior where they are hurting others, we are even more willing to talk with them about these behaviors. Why is it that in the world we live in then, when the information keeps coming out about how social media is negative, that we are not willing to ever talk about these behaviors?
Social media is having negative repercussions on our lives. Especially when overused. And we need to talk about this, because if we don’t talk about it, we are never going to change it.
It is time we realize the power social media has, but with this power, it is also time we talk about the dangers and risk associated with social media. Because until we talk about it, and truly address it, we are going to exist in a world where social media continues to dominate our interactions. With the power social media has, its sway is beginning to cause issues. And until we address these issues, unless we address these issues, we are only going to become so much more mired in them. At a point, we are going to risk it all for the sake of a Like.
And that is a scary world to live in.