Is Social Media Ruining Us?



An essay from my book, 'Don't Forget to Write'

In some ways the internet makes me feel more disconnected than ever. One of the biggest drawbacks of the internet is how I interact with my friends through social media. Actually, I’m not even sure if some of the people on Facebook are my friends. They’re acquaintances. They’re high school classmates that I haven’t seen since I graduated. I have no idea if we have anything in common, other than our “mutual friends.” Yet, I allow them to hang on to me, like barnacles on the post of a pier, and get a glance into my life.

The others are my friends, or at least, I think that they are. But we haven’t talked in a while.  I know they are busy, because they tell me so, but also because I see their posts about what they are doing and where they are going. Are they too busy to text me?I feel like I’m watching a movie.

I know all about my Facebook friends’ lives. I know where they live, what their kids look like, what they ate for dinner last night and where they went on vacation. But they don’t speak to me.  I haven’t talked to them in months.  Just like a movie you would watch in a theatre, I have no input, but I watch it all unfold in front of me.Sometimes I think about deleting all of my social media. Would anyone notice? Would anyone care? Would this prompt a text or a call from someone that I haven’t spoken to in a while? For some reason I don’t think it would. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become too busy creating our own movie full of Facebook and Instagram posts. Most of the time I wish they would just call me or text me instead of ‘liking’ one of my photos. My life is certainly more complex and interesting than a collection of photos. All of our lives are.

I’ve started to question my own behavior on social media. Am I taking this photograph for my own personal enjoyment? Will I print this photo out, frame it, or put it in a photo album to cherish? Or am I taking it only to share on social media, show what I am doing or where I’ve been? If it’s the latter, I've started to keep my phone in my purse.

I’ve starting to even question the pictures that I do take for myself and are framed in the living room. Is this something I really want to share with everyone else? Does that once in a lifetime trip to Europe really need to be shared with people that I haven’t spoken to since middle school?  Maybe it’s something I should just keep to myself and my close friends and family.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that all social media is bad. I enjoy when people share good news of an engagement, a wedding, a graduation, or a new job. It’s exciting to share those experiences with others. Those are the events that you would publish in a newspaper. Maybe I should only share events that would be worthy of being published in the newspaper. That would mean, maybe, I would only share something every few years. Would that be a better solution? Just a few years ago I didn’t share any of this information because I didn’t have the means to do so. I don't believe that I suffered before social media because I wasn't able to share as much of my life as I do now.

Of course, all of this can be controlled by myself. I don’t have to participate on Facebook or Instagram. Those are choices that I consciously make. Maybe it’s just that social media has become a bigger part of our lives than I ever thought it would. Who knows? Maybe it’s even a fad. Maybe one day, we will all be bored with it.

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