With so many ways to connect online, it can be easy to get distracted from the here and now. ReachOut intern Emily Densmore can relate. In today's guest post, she reflects on her own daily digital habits and gives the honest lowdown on attempting to change her social media ways. Be sure to check out her bio below!
A few weeks ago, I met for coffee with a few friends. As we sat drinking our coffees, I realized each of us was glued to our phones. We were scrolling through social media sites, checking for updates and replies, and looking at friends’ pictures. I pounded my hands on the table and said, “Enough! How did we get to this point?” Rather than interacting and sharing stories, we were attached to our phones, unable to disconnect for even an hour of healthy communication. This got me thinking about the role social media plays in our daily life, and how the easy access to all our favorite sites has changed the way we interact in the world.
In the past few years, social networking platforms have become increasingly widespread and easily accessible. Many people check sites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook on a daily basis. Also, the rise of smartphones has allowed social media to infiltrate our lives in many new ways. Mobile apps make it easier to stay connected and updated with our friends, organizations, and celebrities. Although this dramatic change in our ability to network has some great advantages, it can be unhealthy when we do not allow ourselves to disconnect from this “virtual reality.” How are we supposed to find a balance in our highly digitalized society?
The good and the bad
Social networking has changed the way we communicate on a daily basis. It has made it much easier for people all over the globe to share thoughts and ideas. This helps families and friends that are split apart because of work or school feel connected in new and different ways. Social networking can also keep us up to date with organizations and groups to learn about news and events. While all these are great contributions to our life, social networking should not replace real face-to-face interactions.
It may be easier to talk to a friend via Skype or Facebook, but having a conversation in person adds a physical dynamic that can’t be replaced by social media. Although it may be easier to use digital means to connect with others, we should not let social networking replace real contact.
Caught up in the wires
Another disadvantage of being too focused on social networking and digitized forms of communication is that we lose touch with our physical environment. Many people plug their headphones in and surf the web on smartphones during their free time. Although this can be nice when we are bored or waiting, it can also keep us from experiencing life. We don’t take time to appreciate the simple pleasures that occur around us because we are “plugged in.” It also may keep us from interacting with and meeting new people. It’s important to take some time to be completely aware and connected to our surroundings.
A happy medium
It can be very difficult to find a balance when using social media. Because of the easy access to sites and platforms, we often allow our online lives to blend into our outside lives. We may be with a group of friends while simultaneously surfing Instagram or Facebook, or we could be surfing Pinterest in class. This keeps us from fully connecting with others and our experiences. After that day with my friends at the coffee shop, I decided to set some boundaries for myself:
- Stay off the phone and computer when you’re with other people
- Put the phone away during meals
- No more than two hours a day on social networking sites/platforms
- Take time to notice your environment everyday
- Once a week spend one day without connecting to social media sites
After the first week of limiting my social media use, I felt big changes. The hardest rule for me to follow was spending an entire day without checking social media. I actually had to stop myself a few times when I signed in without thinking. I began to realize just how much time I spend during the average day connected to my phone and computer. I’ve decided that I don’t want to spend my times being isolated from others and lost in a cyber world. At times it was challenging to adhere to these set boundaries, but I feel they have finally given me a healthy balance.
I challenge you all to set your own personal boundaries with social media and see what you learn! Share some tips!
My name is Emily Densmore, and I’m a senior in college. I’m studying sociology with an emphasis in child and youth studies. I’ve been interning with ReachOut.com in San Francisco, and have been amazed at the resources that this online community provides for struggling young adults. I’ve really enjoyed learning how this organization works, and discussing the ways that we can spread the word to young people everywhere. We all struggle with the challenges of growing up, and having an outlet to share our feelings and stories is awesome! I’m also involved with an organization at my school called Sociologists Together Empowering People. This has helped me find a group of friends that are like-minded, and community oriented. We do volunteer work around the city, and host on-campus events to spread the word about social issues on campus. I love being a part of a community and helping to make a difference in the lives of others.