Social Media: The Rise of a Detached and Apathetic Community
Updated: Apr 25
Social media is an amazing tool, but how is it impacting your relationships?
Before I get started, I should note that there are some good things that the world of social media has created. I’ve seen families being reunited, money being raised, and pets being located or adopted. We have been plagued with some pretty serious natural disasters over the past year and people across the country have stepped up and offered services/help/donations to those in need. All of the above are amazing circumstances that otherwise may not have occurred without the ease of widespread social sharing. And from a personal standpoint, my little nuclear family lives 2,000+ miles from all of our friends and extended family. So being able to post or read updates on Facebook gives us a sense of connectedness to the people we love and miss dearly.
However with all good things, there is generally a dark side… and social media is no exception. Here are my four biggest frustrations with social media:
1. Tammy Time-Guzzler: Lets look at the most obvious issue. It is a HUGE time waster. Let me ask you this… How many times have you found yourself mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.? Yes, I recognize the irony, because you wouldn’t have found this blog if it weren’t for social media. My problem isn’t the fact that it is a place for us to catch up, find new information, or stay connected. My problem is the sheer amount of time that we spend doing so. Do me a favor, if you have an iPhone, go to your “settings” then go to “battery”. This lovely little page will show what percentage of your battery is being used for the different apps you visit. You can review how much battery these apps have used in the past 24 hours as well as the past 7 days. Now just to the right of that, click on the little clock. Maybe I should have told you to brace yourself first because just under the different list of apps, it will tell you how long you were perusing those apps. The first time I stumbled upon that little eye-opener, I was simply trying to figure out which app was draining my battery, then I saw that little clock and curiosity got the best of me. I had been on one app… JUST ONE… for 8 HOURS in a week. One work day.…. 8 hours of my life I spent on a single social media app. Those of you that know me, know I rarely post anything on social media… so that means those 8 hours were spent scrolling. Not connecting. Not sharing life stories. Just scrolling. Don’t get me wrong, I do get sucked into informative articles, especially those shared by my fellow colleagues regarding new research in my profession. But trying to take credit for scholarly articles accounting for the entire 8 hours would be giving myself WAAAAY too much credit. The sad thing is, I didn’t even realize it was happening.
2. Absent Allison: Other than sucking your free time dry, think about the real life experiences that are being missed because your face is buried in a phone. Hold on… I need someone to give me a hand so I can get down off my high horse. I should not have said “you” because “I” am guilty of this. Extremely guilty. At least 8 hours guilty! If you ever want to know you aren’t alone, here is an enlightening activity…. Go in to an establishment. Pretty much any establishment and look around. How many of those people are messing with their phones instead of engaging with the person next to or across from them? My guess is a large percentage of them do not even acknowledge they are in a facility that other people are also patronizing. Cray Cray right? Imagine walking into that same establishment 20 years ago. The place would likely be filled with noisy chatter. Technology has most definitely changed the way we experience life and interact with each other.
I am especially aware of how guilty I am of this since having children. When I get home from work, my way of unwinding has been to sit and absently scroll. One day, my oldest child came up to me and asked me to play and I responded with, “In a second” without looking at her beautiful little face. She then grabbed my phone from my hands and said, “Mommy will you please play with me.” At that moment I looked at her and my heart broke. I have young children and sometimes I am tired, I want a break, and I want a moment to myself. But those moments of them asking me to play, coloring together, doing puzzles, playing games, or holding their hands as they drift off to sleep… They wont last and I know I will miss them when they are gone. I can guarantee you, at the end my life I wont look back and say, “Man I wish I would have spent more time scrolling through random post from people I don’t know or rarely talk to.” I bet it will be more like, “I wish I could have more time with family and friends.” Though I do still have moments of weakness, I make a conscious effort to engage with my children and the people around me rather than scrolling through my phone. They are more valuable to me than my handheld device and they deserve my undivided attention. Time is such a precious thing. Too precious to be unintentionally wasted.
3. Ted Trolls-A-lot: Social media can be a really depressing and angry place. Just as people can be uplifting, energizing, and encouraging. They can just as easily be judgmental, condescending, holier than thou… soap box sitters. Have you ever heard the saying “liquid courage.” It is a phrase people use to describe how alcohol gives some people courage to say and/or do things they may not have otherwise said or done; mostly because there is a dulled sense of consequences. Social media seems to be a technological form of liquid courage for some people. Sitting behind a screen, saying awful things, without realizing (or maybe without caring) that there is another person on the other side of that screen that is reading and possibly internalizing the negative commentary. I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about “internet trolls” and you probably thought to yourself, “I’m not a troll, I am just voicing my opinion.” But behind a computer screen, there seems to be a lack of responsibility for our words and actions and how they may impact another person. You may be voicing your opinion, but odds are (at least from what I’ve witnessed), opinions tend to error on the side of judgement and shaming rather than a cordial respectful conversation that you might have had if the conversation took place during a face to face interaction. In a sense, social media can dehumanize, human interaction.
4. Debby Downer: I work in mental health, so of course the implications of negative interactions on social media is of interest to me. In an article by the Child Mind Institute, they reference research and outline the negative aspects social media can have on adolescents. In summary, teens today who actively use social media are at greater risk for developing depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness. Comparing self to others, cyber bulling, stalking, or being ignored were possible explanations for the increase in mental health issues. Here is another article that found a link between social media usage and teen mental health.
But lets get serious, these issues aren’t exclusive to the adolescent population. I have a friend who is a well-known TV figure. She receives a lot of positive comments and community love but she has also shared with me some of the atrocious words people feel entitled to share whilst sitting behind a screen. Personal attacks from individuals that do not know her other than they watch her on television. I can guarantee, no one would march up to her on the street and spew some of the things they say to her over the internet. When the interaction is behind a computer or a phone, there is a sense of detachment from the responsibility or emotion those comments may elicit. From a professional standpoint, there have also been many times in my office when my clients have discussed similar encounters like those I have mentioned above. Social media has brought forth an entirely new form of bullying than can have serious adverse effects on the individual if those comments are taken personally and internalized. Now I am not saying that opinions regarding controversial and important topics shouldn’t be shared and discussed. Everyone deserves a platform to “speak their truth.” All I ask is that you be mindful and self-aware. Maybe before you decide to engage in an online conversation ask yourself these questions:
What is my purpose for having this discussion or making this comment?
Would I say this to this person’s face?
Can this discussion be respectful?
What can be gained from this conversation?
So what’s my point? Basically, this whole article could probably be renamed “building self-awareness.” But since I went with a more creative title, here is my unsolicited advice:
Be mindful of your time, it is the one thing in this world we cannot make more of or get back.
Look up and observe. Engage in experiences that technology cannot offer. This tactic will also help you remain present with the ones you love.
Be kind, understanding, non-judgmental, loving, and open when you do engage on social media. These interactions will leave you feeling more fulfilled and uplifted than the alternative.
Be aware of how your own online interactions are impacting your emotional well-being. If you feel depleted, angry, or empty try to adjust the way you are approaching you social media feed. Unfollow accounts that leave you feeling bad or perhaps refrain from responding to the stranger with an opposing view.
Happy (and healthy) connecting!
Until next time….
With Love – Jess