Social media has connected us to people we love all over the world, but has it hurt real connection?
Imagine for a moment your most recent conversation in person. No, not the conversation you had with text, private message on Facebook, direct message on Twitter, or any other way than in person. Think of the last time you sat down and were in front of another human being with the sole purpose of communicating with each other.
Maybe this person was your spouse, your child, a parent, family member or friend. Now, unless you had your smartphone turned off or on silent, chances are you felt or heard a persistent buzz notifying you of a text message, email or phone call.
How difficult was it to not check it? Did you pay any attention to it?
Recently, I found myself giving more time to my social media accounts on my smartphone than the person I was talking to in front of me. I remember when I was in a customer service role about ten years ago someone told me, “Your job is to answer the phone. Your main priority is the person in front of you. If someone is in front of you, you ignore the phone. They took the time to come see you in person, the caller will call back.”
After I had realized my shortcomings with my lack of smartphone etiquette, I realized I wasn’t just being rude, I was ruining relationships. After some research, self-criticism, and further insight, here’s what I discovered about the use of social media accounts and harming my relationships.
Perceived priorities. Interrupting an in-person visit for a text message lets the other person know where they stand in your priorities. When I am talking with someone in person, I don’t believe it is polite or professional to stick my finger in their face and say, “Hold on. I need to talk to this person who is on the phone.”
I now pronounce you spouse and phone. When we spend time with our family, it is good to occasionally disconnect from technology. If we were to walk into the majority of homes in the United States, we would see most of the members of any given household staring down at their smartphones, laptops, or other handheld devices. When we lose our need to be connected with others, we lose our perspective on the need for good relationships. Bottom line: when you are alone with your spouse, put the phone down.
Disconnected people lead lonely lives. Seriously, what does it matter if we have interaction and gain some strangers “approval” through his/her favoriting our tweet, liking our status or photo, or any other interaction? In what way does this improve our lives and relationships? Let me make it clear: No one wants to connect with a disconnected person.
Disengagement from social activities. With real people, in real life, will lead to less connectivity and lower quality relationships. In turn, this will have the possibility to result in fewer opportunities because we will be known as “the guy who is always staring at his phone.”
Lack of communication will destroy a relationship (with the real humans). Have you tried to have a real conversation while talking to someone, using emoticons? Try explaining this without text messaging! Instead of replying with a simple, yet vague, “LOL” or a “Wink and a smile,” we might actually be required to explain why we laugh, why we are winking, or simply have a conversation beyond one word answers.
Unreasonable expectations are created. Imagine you are at the office on a Monday at about 2 PM. When you have the all clear, you take a quick glance at your social media account. What sucks is the first picture that pops up. You see a picture of someone with their feet in the white sands of a beach, the beautiful water, sun, drinks, and you immediately regret taking your current job.
While this may be good motivation for you to prod your entrepreneurial spirit, it certainly makes the rest of your work day horribly difficult to complete. On another note, when we constantly see our friends and family getting new things, buying new property, taking trips; we get to the point where we question why we can’t do that too! Then, our contentment in our lives is challenged, and I can tell you from my experience, this is the first step down a long, painful road of disappointment.
What we create when we give our social media accounts the majority of our attention is a disconnected, unrealistic lifestyle. In all reality, we create two different lives: one life we live without the technology we submerse ourselves into, the other life others perceive we lead on a regular basis from our posts.
Without a doubt, social media plays a unique role in our society, and its role is ever increasing. I have been challenged personally to monitor my use and not take for granted the relationships I have.
Have you experienced any of these situations? How do you believe excessive use of technology and social media plays into destructive habits with relationships?
Photo: Flickr/ Ed Yourdon