There is no doubt that social media has made our lives better in a myriad of ways. Thanks to FaceTime, we feel like we’re spending time in person with loved ones who live across the country. We share fun updates on Facebook and Instagram, allowing those in our networks to feel connected to what’s going on in our lives. Social media has advanced the missions of humanitarian causes and small businesses alike, and it has been revolutionary in bringing about change in the United States as well as in countries throughout the world.
Though on the contrary, social media has also become a source of stress, anxiety, and frustration. Increasingly, we’re witnessing society’s social commentary on the subject, watching as TV shows, authors, reality stars, and magazines alike share their irritation with social media and the manner in which it inflames tensions amongst loved ones, creates distractions from work, and generally encourages an environment of disconnectedness (or, at best, of forced connectedness).
Since society itself recognizes that we have a problem with using social media in an entirely positive way, what are we to do? Should we continue our fascination with social media as a form of entertainment, or should we take note of the warning signs and try to root out the potentially harmful implications of our online usage?
Here are some questions to consider as we ponder this issue.
1. Why am I using social media?
As we’ve previously mentioned, there are so many good ways to use social media. Thanks to various outlets, we’re able to stay connected to people we love, advance causes that matter to us, and promote brands and companies that have impacted our lives for the better. On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, social media can make us feel jealous, prideful, and angry. So the major question that we may need to ask ourselves is, why are we using social media in the first place?
If we’re using outlets to genuinely connect with the people we love, to raise funds for organizations that matter to us, to share concepts created by innovative businesses, and to write content that enriches the lives of others (amongst other positive reasons), chances are that we’re using social media in the way that it was intended: for good.
However, if we’re seeking self-affirmation that can only come from internet-based feedback, we may need to reevaluate why we’re using social media in the first place. Indeed, our self-worth comes from a variety of factors, and some of those may include the relationships we’ve started and maintained with people we’ve met online. But if we’re relying solely on an online community to validate our character or our opinions, without having a real life community in place to balance out this feedback, we may be missing the point.
The point is that bonding with a group of people gathering in an online forum is important, but so is intimately connecting with the loved ones with whom we interact in real life, face-to-face. Relationships that withstand the test of time are the ones in which we’re honest and real, both online and in person, and solely relying on the commentary from those with whom we communicate through screens can be detrimental.
… if we’re relying solely on an online community to validate our character or our opinions, without having a real life community in place to balance out this feedback, we may be missing the point.
2. What are loved ones saying about my social media usage?
We may believe we’re using social media for the right reasons, but it’s important to be willing to hear what our loved ones have to say about our online personas. Specifically, it’s important to hear what our loved ones have to say about our online usage.
I remember bristling when my husband made a comment about me being on Instagram too much during a weekend trip. I was busily curating the perfect Instagram photo, editing the lighting and color, while he sat enjoying a beverage and a spectacular view. He noted that I was on my phone instead of enjoying the moment. Initially, I reacted poorly when he commented that I was spending too much time on my phone; after all, why wouldn’t I want to document our special trip? But, quickly I realized that I was only angry because he was right.
I didn’t want to fritter away our time by tapping away mindlessly at my phone. Instead, I wanted to soak up every second we had together. So, the overall commentary wasn’t about what I was posting, necessarily; instead, it was about when I was choosing to do it. I learned that instead of waiting until I got home or until I had a few moments to myself, I was willing to sacrifice quality time for the sake of sharing a perfectly timed image. I decided right then and there that this was not how I wanted to live my life, opting instead to share photos and updates long after I had enjoyed time with the people I love.
We can start putting practices into place now that establish a mindset promoting community and mindfulness above all else.
3. How do I envision my social media presence in the future?
This question allows us to explore the ways our online presence can manifest itself in years to come. There’s no good way to anticipate how the Internet and social media outlets will grow and change in the future, but we can start establishing habits now that indicate how we will adjust to accommodate technology’s demand as well as protect the relationships we have.
We can start putting practices into place now that establish a mindset promoting community and mindfulness above all else. We can set aside specific times to post and share and check online mediums, balancing those out with time spent in person with people we love, phones put away for the time being. By formulating good habits from the outset, we can set ourselves up for relational success as we move into the future.
What do you think about this topic and about these questions? Do you think you use social media too much, or just the right amount?
Images via Edith Young