Social Media in an Unsocial World
Almost 100 years ago, a novel was published describing a future in which people were addicted to technology: A world in which people loved the oppression, as they did not have to think for themselves. A world in which the truth was drowned in a sea of irrelevance, A Brave New World. This novel by Huxley has become a description of the addictive society we live in.
The typical family dinner, the way it is known from movies, does not exist anymore. Conversations are replaced with smartphones and laughter is replaced with the vibrating sound of a new message arriving. Phones are no longer used as entertainment, they have become extensions of ourselves.
Many suffer from Internet Addiction Disorder
This addiction a majority of people have developed can be traced back to the science of the brain, the way our brain functions. In fact, our reward system is activated every time we check our smart phone, releasing the happiness chemical dopamine. Therefore, it is not a surprise we get distracted so easily and caught up in the online dopamine wonderland.
But social media does bring many positive aspects as well. It makes it possible to connect with friends around the world, to access information easily at any time, to share your identity and find likeminded people, and even to develop new skills online.
The advantages are countless but they come at a price. The more we focus on our online activities, the more we neglect the reality surrounding us. We have to ask ourselves:
What is the Price We Pay?
Low self esteem is one of the outcomes of social media usage. A study conducted by the University of Gothenburg showed that there is a negative relation between Facebook usage and self esteem.
Furthermore, 13% of productivity is lost to social media according to the Teamlease report, World of Work (2016). That is an average of 2.35 hours daily spent on social media sites during working hours.
In addition, relationships are becoming increasingly superficial. Every relationship takes time and effort. Normally. But we have come to accept that taking care of a friendship is easily done by liking a picture, sending an interesting link or sharing an old memory. Friendships have been transfered into our endlessly long friends lists on Facebook and that’s where we take care of them — online.
How Can We Make a Change?
It always begins with ourselves and the decisions we make. So maybe we should decide to...
Leave our phones at home when we go out with our friends and family.
No one looks back fondly on a night out with friends, when each was glued to their phone.
Only use social media to get in touch with people when there is no other way.
We can call people, write an old-school letter or send a quick text to organize a meeting point — we should not limit our conversations to WhatsApp and Facebook.
Find alternatives for entertainment.
Scrolling through a boring Facebook feed for an hour will only leave us frustrated in comparison. We should try something new.
Be critical, especially with serious topics.
Fake news is not a new thing. It is just a new term for old-fashioned lies. Social media is full of them and we often read too much of them. What we are confronted with daily is a biased, framed version of reality. We should be critical of all information we receive.
Focus on one thing at a time.
We have to put our phones away if we’re busy — In case you haven’t heard: multitasking is a myth. We should not even attempt to get things done that way.
Huxley made a good point. He was afraid that what we loved would ruin us. We love technology, for many reasons. But we should be aware of the impact it has on society. Of course, we cannot ban our phones from our lives, but we can find a healthy balance for ourselves and the people around us.