Is Social Media Ruining Us?

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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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