By Suzanne Rent
I joked recently that these days everyone is so connected, yet so disconnected at the same time. I posted this on social media, ironically, about 10 years after I joined Facebook.
Social media has its positives. I’ve seen people use it for activism. It gives a voice to many who have traditionally been without a voice. It’s an inexpensive and effective tool for small businesses to promote their products and services. And yes, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends, sharing photos of your kids, and saving yourself those long-distance phone charges.
But I wondered, too, how all this online connectivity is affecting our children. Are they missing out on developing crucial social skills? The in-person, real-life kind? Do they have more friends online than they have in real life? I wonder if they know the difference between emotions and emojis. And how does social media affect discussions and even arguments with friends in real life versus friends online? Conversations on social media have a different tone and context than those had in person.
My daughter isn’t much for Facebook or Twitter; she seems to like Snapchat with its entertaining filters that distort funny faces or add animals features to photos. By the time she finishes high school, or probably earlier, there will be several new social media applications people have yet to sign up for.
Personally, I’ve experienced a few downsides of social media. I see my friends online more than I do in person. And I’m constantly on and thinking about what’s happening in the world. The brain never gets a break, constantly scanning through news stories, the mundane or exciting details of other people’s lives, or even what people had for dinner the night before.
I recently decided to detox a bit from Facebook, limiting my own posts and checking in less frequently. I immediately noticed I slept through the night, two nights in a row. Being online seriously affects down time.
And the trolls are aplenty and, even with fighting back, they seem tougher than ever. I’ve had to delete a few “friends” on Facebook and followers on Twitter whose comments left me angry and frustrated.
I sound like an old fogey, but meeting in person for fun, laughs, and great conversation never goes out of style. Neither does getting outside and connecting with nature and what’s happening in the real world.
We may not yet know the long-term effects of being constantly connected, but it’s not too late to reconnect with what really matters. I’d like to hear your thoughts on social media and how it affects you, your children, and your family.