Whenever I hear that someone is “taking a break” from social media, I have to suppress the urge to laugh. Really. I won’t lie and say that I don’t use social media, but I find that its importance, at least to me, isn’t really that high. I don’t identify with people whose lives have been taken over by their Twitter and Facebook accounts. I’ve had the same profile picture for a year. I know people who’ve had the same one longer.
All of this talk of quitting social media kind of made me think about the real purpose of social media. I don’t think that social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) have taken the place of personal interaction. Whenever I get on Facebook and look at people’s profiles, I’m really engaging in what I’ve deemed as “social stalking” – I get to see what people are up to without actually having to interact with them. Much like a stalker. I can count on one hand the people that I’m friends with on Facebook that I actually see in real life.
I actually don’t think that social media is the real problem to begin with, taking into account all the news out there about the evils and pitfalls of social media. I mean, if you are obsessed with social media – checking your Facebook account, posting in Twitter, etc., – then there must be another reason for this.
My conclusion: people become obsessed with social media when they lack actual, real life contact with other people. It’s filling a void that most people feel, but can’t quite put a name to. We’re all so busy with our 9-5 jobs and when it’s time to go home, a lot of us rarely have the energy to actually go out and do something. I’ll bet a lot of us see our co-workers more than we see our own family.
Somehow, by stalking people on Facebook, we feel closer to other humans.
I would also stress that, in my personal opinion, an introvert is more likely to become obsessed with social media than an extrovert. Why? Extroverts are always on the lookout for stuff to do with other people – they want to go out a lot and normally can find someone amongst their massive list of friends and acquaintances with whom they can spend a good time. The extroverts that I know are rarely without a friend to pass time with.
On the other hand, introverts tend to have smaller groups. I am an introvert and can honestly say that there are about 5 people that I actually contact on a regular basis and with whom I feel comfortable enough to plan something last minute. Social media affords us the opportunity to see what other people are up to without actually having to engage them in person.
Social media is all about striking a balance. I’ve become pretty balanced myself. I don’t feel the need to tell people where I am all the time. Or what I’m doing. I have gotten to the point where I don’t obsess about what other people are doing (and, consequentially, what I’m not doing). It takes a lot of courage to tune out this constant buzz of activity.
So, how have I freed myself from the burdens of social media? Here’s how:
– I normally don’t go on Facebook at home. I even have a policy of not going on Facebook at all for at least one day of the week.
– I remember that Facebook and all other social media are really just snippets of someone’s life – the parts that they want you to see. The viewer never gets the complete picture.
– I spend time with my son (who’s pretty awesome). I have a ton more fun with him than I do looking at people’s newest Facebook profile pictures.
– I read books and find other hobbies that I enjoy that don’t involve the Internet.
I’ve actually gone off of Facebook for extended periods of time before. In my early 20s, I didn’t have access to the Internet, so I didn’t have an active Facebook account for a few years. Recently, a friend of mine and I had become depressed and realized that social media wasn’t helping out. We both deactivated our Facebook accounts for a month. The experience was very freeing.
I think that making social media an integral part of your life is a personal decision. If you want to do it, by all means, stick with it. But I think I’ll keep it to a minimum, thanks!