In her book, Here Now, Kate Merrick writes, “Let’s enter into the real life of right here, right now.” Let’s live presently in the lives that we have been given. “We are meant to breathe in today, and only today.”
A friend recently messaged me and encouraged me to share my heart when it comes to social media. With my background in both my education and my career, she lovingly asked if I would share about the construct of social media and how it affects our everyday lives. In her message, she wrote to me, “I just consistently find it so interesting that you make space and intentional room in your life for breaks from social media while working in it.”
While this is not the first time I’ve talked about the impact social media has on our day-to-day lives, today, I want to take a deeper dive on this subject. If you are new here, hello! Perhaps, you’d like to know why I’m so passionate about this? I got my B.A. in Interpersonal Communication Studies and became completely fascinated by the world of social psychology. During a visit back home, while sitting around the table with family, I looked around the table and said, “If there is one thing I have learned, I have begun to recognize the fact that in a world that is becoming seemingly more connected with one another, we are, in all actuality, becoming more disconnected with one another.” Right then and there, I decided to write my Senior Thesis on the Dark Side of Social Media. And, ever since, it has changed the way I view social media and interact with it.
I wrote this paper four years ago, so it would be safe to say that any of the statistics I share here from my Thesis will in all actuality have increased in numbers. Take that into consideration as you read the below:
Since it’s beginning in 2004, Facebook has become one of the leading social media networking sights. The average American devotes 22.5% of their time to social media sites (Nelson, 2011). Why do we spend so much of our time on social media? According to Uses and Gratifications Theory, people use these social networking sites to satisfy both social and psychological needs (O’Donohoue, 1994.)
Did you know that we have social and psychological needs? The problem in the 21st century is that these needs were never made to be met by an online “false” sense of reality. These needs can only be met by face to face human interaction. Yet, in our world today, we are so absorbed looking down, instead of looking up. We are scared of fomo (fear of missing out) that we check our phones a ridiculous amount of times per day. I think it would terrify us if we sat in a room at the end of the day to see how much time was actually spent in an online world, instead of our everyday lives.
It’s as though we have this fear of stillness or silence. When our phones die, how do we feel? We rush to find the nearest outlet, don’t we?
While sitting in a coffee shoppe a couple years ago, I overheard a fellow customer say to the person he was having coffee with, “Our phone is our own religion. It’s what we depend on. But, when my phone dies, it’s such a relief. It’s so nice to disconnect from my phone.” Wow.
It has been proven over and over again that increased time spent on social media actually leads to greater dis-satisfaction and has the ability to impact one’s self esteem. Through an evaluation of 200 college students, it was concluded that those who had lower self esteem had “stronger instant messaging (IM) addictive tendencies” (Ehrenberg, Juckes, White & Walsh, 2008, p.739) than those with higher self esteem. Individuals who had high self-esteem tended to engage more, interpersonally speaking, through the usage of mobile phone calls rather than increased time IM and SNS.
A couple years ago, I started doing this new thing where I would leave my phone in my car when I went grocery shopping or would leave my phone at work while I took my lunch break. I wanted to increase my interpersonal interactions with those in my day-to day life. When I first started doing this, it felt a little strange not having my phone on me, but then, the more that I did it, the more that I wished we lived in a world where we spent more time looking up. I began to notice little kids saying the funniest things at the grocery store checkout, I struck conversation with the girl sitting next to me at the coffee shoppe, I listened to a man play his violin on the street corner. The beautiful melody was silenced by the busyness of people plugged into their phones or tuned into their own music, instead. And, it made me sad in a way. Are we so busy that we miss the most beautiful melody of our ordinary, extraordinary lives?
I work in Advertising, specifically on the Digital Creative team which is everything social media. My everyday world is wrapped up in Facebook’s best practices and Pinterest creative and Instagram and Snapchat stories. I run social media for two different church platforms (at one point, I ran 4 accounts. That was insane.) And, on top of that, I create promo and creative for my book company. Not to mention, I have my own personal account. I am a creative who lives and works in the Creative Industry. And, at times, I just want to unplug from it all. I want to move to the top of a mountain and escape the online world altogether. Side note: When I travel internationally, I don’t get cell service, that way the only time I can check my phone is when I have Wifi. It’s the best!
Now, I love my job. I love photography and being connected with so many different people. But, for the sake of my mental health and well-being, I’ve become mindful in my social media habits.
While we continually use social media in our every day lives, it is important that we set up boundaries for both ourselves and for the future generation. Fuller Youth Institute’s Art Bamfard (2016) claims that youth’s overuse of digital devices and social media is a mirrored image of the precedent that has been set by adults. He states that “setting physical boundaries helps reinforce digital ones,” (Bamford, 2016, p.1).
If we won’t set social media boundaries for our own lives, will we at least do that for the future generation? Their mental health, self-esteem, interpersonal communication skills, and yes, spiritual walk with their Creator, depends on it.
I don’t want to bore you with all the research, but I just want to share my heart (which is backed up by research, ha!). Social media is a wonderful thing. I love being “connected” with so many people. I use that term loosely. But, real connection happens off-screen.
Here now. That is my mantra for this season of life. To be present fully in the season that I am in, I’m saying, “Here now. Social media later.” I want to find beauty in the everyday mundane, and find connection through disconnection. By setting up boundaries on my social media habits, there is a freedom to truly appreciate the gift of today, no matter what life looks like.
As a single girl living in Los Angeles on her own, it is easy to become caught up in the chapters of other people’s lives, wishing for another season than the one I am in. But, oh my goodness, there is so much awesomeness to this season of life. If you are single and you are reading this, I just want to take a moment to pause and say, life isn’t getting away from you. Your life is already complete before someone else comes into it. I get the struggle. Trust me, I do. It gets tiring sometimes. But, your friends who are happily married and the friend who just had an adorable baby and the friends who just spent a summer overseas and the friends who just renovated their home to look like Chip and Joanna Gaines did it and the friends who just planted a church and the friends who just got every degree under the sun, and the friends who launched their own business, and the list could go on, they have aspects of their lives that they wished looked different, too. Appreciate the season that you are in and don’t get distracted by comparison of everyone’s highlight reel. I think we are the happiest when we are living without distraction or weighed down by comparison. Today is such a gift. Not tomorrow, but today. Can we appreciate the gift of the present again?
I’m currently reading Kate Merrick’s book, Here Now, and it’s a wonderful read for this season. She writes, “Practicing presence is looking plain old life square in the face and saying, Yes, you’re beautiful and you’re mine. Let’s do this.” We look at our lives plain in the face by unplugging from the online world and re-connecting with our real one. While all of this may just be mumbo jumbo, I hope there is something that you took away from this blogpost. If anything, I hope it allows you and I to be here now and allow God to have His way in our everyday life. There is so much happening all around us. All you have to do is be still.