For years we’ve been told social media worked wonders for our networking footprint. It connects us to the entire world — and gives us access to people and places we never dreamed we could interact with.
But there is growing research that shows those connections may not be as helpful as we all thought. A 2014 Pew Research report says that “66 percent of internet users who have experienced online harassment said their most recent incident occurred on a social networking site or app.” Additionally, the report claims 90 percent of internet users say that an online environment is overly critical when compared to personal interaction.
And when it comes to social media, the trade-off for a worldwide communication platform may not be as great as we thought. A recent study from the psychological journal, Computers in Human Behavior, revealed that using social media does not promote well-being, and actually increases “online vulnerability,” which, according to the study is “… an individual’s capacity to experience detriments to their psychological, reputational, or physical wellbeing as a result of the experiences that they may encounter whilst engaging in online activities.”
When I first started social media, I was told it was a great way to network. But you know what’s another great way to network? Personal interaction.
The day before the election, I quit Facebook. I couldn’t just get on and look anymore — I had to yell at someone for not agreeing with me or share something that confirmed my beliefs. I used social media as a tool to confirm my biases — not to connect with people.
I was stunned at the result of the presidential election — but one thing was for sure: I wasn’t going to use social media to make myself feel better. Instead I was looking back at the previous year with a much more rounded perspective.
For the first time in a long time, I didn’t run to social media to see what people were saying about life events — I could experience them in my own personal way. And while I kept my Twitter account (because I’m a journalist and, well, I have to), I stopped scrolling through comment sections and quit arguing with people the way I would on Facebook. Instead, I began researching outside the realms of social media on current events. I even picked up a newspaper (other than this one) once — it was weird to read news without scrolling through the hate-filled comments section at the bottom.
This year, I encourage everyone to leave social media — even if for a little bit. I know many people use it to connect to family and friends, but (for those of you who are old enough to remember this) think back to when there was no social media. How did we stay connected? We called on the phone, we wrote letters (email works too), we even met face-to-face. Think about this: If you lost your social media pages today, who would you really want to contact off that list? If you can’t think of anyone or already have that person’s personal information, then your social media “friends” really aren’t that necessary.
2016 was a bad year. But what made it worse was how often we shoved our noses into our phones and ignored the world around us.
The new year has already started, but it’s not too late to quit social media. Don’t make a grand exit — just leave. See how many people ask you about it (if you leave without saying anything, my guess is not many). Then head down to the nearest social gathering and just sit. Don’t look at your phone — just sit and watch. While you observe the many people clicking and posing and commenting away, notice the atmosphere. How many people are talking to each other? How many of them look engaged with someone? Chances are you will probably notice something you’ve never noticed before.
Let’s make 2017 the year we wake up from our social slumber. Let’s make this the year we interact with human beings right in front of our faces instead of the ones buried in our social media networks.