Social Media. Most of us have it. All of us know somebody who does. Chances are that if you're reading this, it's via one of the big platforms. As we wade through our current social climate, AKA Covid-19, it's been a blessing. But like anything, if used incorrectly, it can quickly become a curse.
Of course, I say this as someone who began her teenage years before social media existed. I didn't have a cellphone until the end of grade 12, and Facebook had literally just been invented. Nobody I knew had it, except for me. Even then, I didn't know how to use it, had no reason to, and therefore I forgot about it.
Flash forward to 2020 where today's youth have only ever known this Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter, 'insert company here', crazed world.
I feel bad for said youth. They will never understand the adrenaline rush of trying to beat everyone to Blockbuster on a Friday night to get the last copy of the latest movie. They will never hurry home after school to log in to MSN Messenger to wait for their friends (who they just saw) to also log on, only to discuss what happened when so and so told so and so's crush that he/she likes him/her. Gone are the surprise three-way calls, where you didn't realize there was a third person until you heard random breathing. Man, it was so exciting!
Nope, they will never get that. They have instant access to everyone and everything at their fingertips.
Now, I'm picking on youth but even us adults are guilty of 'social media addiction'. How many times do you refresh Instagram? How often do you click the Facebook icon on your phone? Does your phone vibrate 1000000 times per day with texts, notifications, and pings? It's okay. Mine does too. Guilty as charged.
Of course, it's not all bad. Some obvious benefits of Social Media are:
Networking- you cannot dispute that the networking possibilities are endless; I can connect with a small business on the other side of the world to create a unique collaboration if that's what I feel like doing. Pretty cool!
Communication- are you currently in the midst of a global pandemic and you're being dissuaded from seeing your loved ones face-to-face? Is your time zone 8 hours ahead of your sister's? No problem! You will never miss anything she is doing and will always feel like you are part of her everyday life, as long as she posts photos. And hey, it's allowed long-distance calling charges to be a thing of the past for the most part.
Entertainment- don't you dare lie. You have watched a stupid cat video, babies laughing, or soldiers coming home, most likely more than once. We all get caught up on silly memes from time to time.
Marketing- businesses use social media platforms every day for free marketing. It's a great way to showcase what you have to offer, both through posting your own work and allowing others to share links and photos. It really has expanded possibilities!
Although there are significant benefits, it's not hard to find the disadvantages. I'm not going into full detail about all of them. We can all agree that there has been an influx of cyber-bullying, online harassment, identity theft, bank fraud, and you name it. But perhaps the worst side-effect of ramped up social media use is disconnection.
But wait . . . isn't social media supposed to connect us?
Maybe, the short answer is 'yes'. But we human beings can turn anything into an addiction. We took something that was meant to be a pastime, entertainment to add into our lives, and turned it into our lives. It's the reason why cell phones send you weekly screen-time reports with embarrassing statistics of how you spend your precious time. Last week, I received a report saying that I averaged close to 3 hours per day of screen time. My jaw hit the floor. That's almost one-quarter of my day (of when I'm awake; I'm aware that there are 24 hours in a day).
The sad truth is that so many of us are disconnected, missing the simplistic beauty of our surroundings.
I want you to read the following scenarios and ask yourself if you are guilty. I promise that there is absolutely no judgement, because I'm guilty of a couple.
Are you the person who paid $100 to go to a concert, only to watch it through your phone as you record it?
Are you the person who is sitting at a restaurant with friends, blatantly ignoring them because you need to see if anybody liked your picture of roasted asparagus on Instagram?
Is your child currently saying "Mommy/Daddy, look at me! I put my shoes on all by myself!", while you stare at your computer and nod like a mindless robot?
Is your partner trying to have an in-depth conversation with you about how he/she is feeling, and you are laughing at memes?
Do you scroll through your Facebook page at the dinner table, where you should maybe be connecting as a family?
Honestly, I feel like we have all done it. That doesn't mean that it's okay.
Put your phone down.
Don't dismiss your children by showing them that the computer is more important than their first accomplishments. Connect with your family over a meal. Strike up conversations and actually check in with your friends and loved ones, that they are okay. Make yourself available to those you care about.
Listen to the music and be a live witness to what you have paid to see. Those performers created something for their fans. Do you actually rewatch those videos anyways? Don't waste the magnificence of live performances.
And it's fine to post photos that you're proud of, but you don't need to check for responses incessantly. Nobody actually cares about your asparagus, so don't worry about it.
Pay attention to the beauty in front of you.
If you go for a walk on a nice Spring day, acknowledge the warmth on your skin. See butterflies fluttering around. Wave to people as you pass by. Say good morning and give people well wishes. Listen to the laughter of children as they run and play. These are all beautiful things that we miss because we are buried by technology.
Life is fragile. It doesn't go on forever, so please don't waste your precious time. Your phone does not love you, but the person you are ignoring probably does. Just think about it.