Hello all, it’s been a while since I posted, but I felt the need to write about whether, is social media causing us issues?
To be fair this is a rather alarmist way of putting it perhaps, however as more and more people come to see me, the more it would seem the “darker” side of social media is starting to surface. It’s too early to tell what the real impact will be in the future, so all I can do is share what I see now. I might even chuck in a few predictions too, just for good measure and food for thought.
It would seem that regardless of generation, social media and it’s technological backbone, the smartphone is become more and more prevalent in most people’s lives. As this happens it would appear to be eroding people’s ability to be present. There’s always another distraction just a few finger swipes away. Next time you’re out and about, just look at how many people are on their smartphones, even as they try to walk about. You’ll see people in coffee shops, shopping queues and even out with friends all tapping away furiously.
Now, I’m no luddite, I like my smartphone as much as the next person. It’s a really useful and powerful tool in all sorts of ways. It is of course all about the balance though. I wonder how we’d get on if all smartphones disappeared or the telephone networks all went down. I suspect we’d all feel rather lost and bereft. Mainly because we’ve outsourced so much mental work to our phones. Need to know a simpler sum? No need for your brain to be troubled, just use the calculator. Need to recall a special date? Don’t bother learning it, just put it in your calendar.
There are a great many useful tools to augment our lives (without augmented reality, don’t get me started!), however we all seem to be guilty of letting ourselves cease to think too deeply or really give our brains a work out these days. The younger you are too, the more you seem to need the phone. My own kids can’t be off their phones for more than maybe 30 mins before they get withdrawal symptoms. What are they withdrawing from? I suspect the fear or missing out (FOMO to those in the know, apparently!). If they aren’t chatting to their friends or posting the latest “story” of their lives, then the fear becoming irrelevant and not knowing what’s going on becomes too strong. It seems long gone are the days where you took a chance and knocked on your mates’ door to see if they were in. If they weren’t, then trying your luck elsewhere. Now my kids don’t even need to leave the house to feel “connected” to friends.
This leads me nicely to the most potentially damaging part of the current trend though, and one that spans all the ages. It’s that the “connection” happening is entirely virtual. You don’t really get to see what mood your friends are in, or to have a really fun or meaningful time just in each other’s physical company. You don’t get to laugh actually together to get that real sense of bonding, it’s a pretty empty experience. You’re having a rough time, you don’t just want words, you want physical comfort. The real shoulder to cry on. Your smartphone and remote friends can’t do that. We also lose out on the art of making real time conversation. It would appear most people just utter tiny micro phrases rather than engage in real flow. In my line of work one of my central themes is “communication is key”.
Alongside the micro phrases and virtual friendship is the phenomenon that no one seems to pick up, at least not yet. The phenomenon that almost every post on all media is an edited highlight, a marketing show real so the world believes that everyone else’s life is flawless (whatever that means). I get an increasing number of people that come in to see me wondering why their “mundane” life doesn’t match up to all the friends Hollywood movie style/ lifestyle commercial lives. I take time to run through that people only post the “good stuff” or what they perceive to be broadcast-able. If you take a look, very few people post how terribly things are going, how bored they are, how stuck in a rut or how unhappy they are. Very few people seem to post a balanced view of life, but then why would they? It’s a bit dull and like the rest of us! The only way to stand out of the millions of users and gain your much needed followers is to show how extraordinary you are…
The antidote? Take a look around once in a while (to quote Ferris Beuller) or in my words, become far more aware and present in your life. What do you want to be doing? Does it matter what anyone else is doing? Other than a negative effect of feeling in competition, what impact does it have on you and your life? Take the time to figure out what you want to do with your life and time, then get on with it. It really is as simple as that. Enjoy those around you, make small changes so that life feels more to your liking. There’s plenty of scope for positive change in life, until you can feel content with where your life is.
Put down the smartphone for a few hours, put it on silent and just be present in the actual world around you. I suspect you’ll find it refreshing.