Digital technology has advanced exponentially over the past several decades. While I am only in my 30s, I actually remember our first family cell phone. This new mobile device was ginormous and had 4 ring tones. It was awesome.
When I was 15 my parents gave me a cell phone of my own. It had the capability to call and text (for an extra charge, of course). That was it. Even in college I remember stressing over each text message because all I saw was dollar signs. We had to pay for each and every text. I know, it was rough.
Fast forward a few years to 2018. We’ve got the world on a string and that string around our fingers. Literally. Never before have we been so connected-and so disconnected. I find this fascinating. We unceasingly update the digital world. We unendingly receive alerts each time one of our 300 “closest” friends does something spectacular. Like walks outside. Or breathes. And yet, we are left feeling worse in general.
In that same breath we can talk about the rise of depression. There are certainly numerous factors that can lead to depression. I am certainly not an expert in mental health but there is more and more research showing a connection between social media and depression. For example, The Department of Health and Human Services published an article in 2016 about this very topic. The article concluded by saying that “SM [Social Media] use was significantly associated with increased depression.”
There can be positive effects from social media if used in a constructive way. As with everything in life, there are always pros and cons. As you evaluate what this means for you personally, consider these thoughts when navigating the world of social media.
Be intentional. Time spent mindlessly scrolling through the news feed can add up. Randomly spending 5 or 10 minutes throughout the day can lead to hours. The more time you physically spend on social media, the more time your mind will be consumed even when you are not actively searching someone’s page. Be cautious of the times you open each site and be intentional.
Resist the urge to compare. The problem with comparing our lives to others on social media (or in real life for that matter) is that we only see highlight reels. I once heard it best said this way. “I compare my insides to your outsides.” We know the worst about ourselves but that doesn’t make for a viral-worthy post. If you struggle with comparison, rethink your desire for social media.
Invest in genuine relationships. Social media can be a way to connect with people who live far away. I have friends spread across the country so I get it. But here is what I have discovered. The stuff that is really going on never makes the news feed. Or for that matter, even a text feed. You discover the real issues, the real struggles and real celebrations over a cup of coffee or by talking on the phone. Never allow social media to replace a face to face or phone conversation.
Consider a fast. When referencing social media, the common phrases I hear are, “I really don’t spend that much time on social media” or “I really don’t like social media.” Yet these are the same people I hear referencing everything they learned on Facebook. It’s quite paradoxical. With that said, consider taking a fast from social media. The length of time is your call, but keep this thought in mind. If you are unable to stay away from your social media accounts for more than a couple of weeks you may be addicted. It’s time to be honest about the grip social media has on our lives.
With all that being said, I want to make it clear that I am not mad at every social media outlet and all the people who use them. The very action of posting this blog means social media does have a place in my life. However, I have also been on a 20 month fast from Facebook. At some point I may re-activate my account. I may share a blog post (I may even share this blog post). I may like a picture or a comment. Or I may not. Either way, all these thoughts stem from experience on both sides of the fence.
Give yourself permission to take an honest look at social media’s impact on your life. I am evidence that you can take a break and survive. You really won’t miss the most important events that happen with friends and family. You may even find you learn more because suddenly you have a lot of free time on your hands. If and when you are ready to jump back in, you will have gained a new perspective. And chances are, you will be so busy living life that you won’t even have missed it.
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