By Jason Price, Seattle, Washington
Social or Anti-Social? That is the Question…
In the last 5 years we have seen a boom in the usage of social media sites by young and old alike. We have evolved from the early days of Myspace to more robust, integrated platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. The average person today carries accounts on at least one of these platforms if not more. They primarily use them to keep in touch with friends, share what they like and don’t like, keep abreast of news and happenings, and to communicate in brief, 140 word snippets about the happenings in their daily life. And their usage is rising.
In a recent study, over a quarter of all time we spend online is on social media sites. Now that is a lot of time sharing what you are doing with the world or satisfying your voyeuristic urges to see what others are up to.
Where Are All My Friends?
Nowadays, the answer to this question is typically ‘online’. While social media has its definite benefits – such as making plans, talking about your vacation, sharing photos and keeping up with others doing the same; it also has its negatives. For example, in this 2013 study by the Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange, it’s estimated that social networking eats up a whopping 3 hours-a-day for average American users. 3 hours doesn’t seem like a lot, but let’s think about it this way my fellow Americans:
1) There are 24 hours in a day – fact
2) The average person sleeps 8 hours a day
3) We spend nearly 20% of our waking hours on social media sites
4) If we work, we spend 8-10 hours a day doing our jobs and commuting
5) This all means that we have ~6 hours left to take care of bills, run errands, care for our kids if we have them, mow the lawn, and so on.
This all adds up to having no time for real, social, interpersonal interaction. All work and no play definitely makes Jack a dull boy…
Time is Not on Your Side
The time left over to actually socialize in person and speak with friends is very limited for the average Joe or Jane. In part, I think we use social media as a crutch to accommodate the lack of time in our lives to actually socialize the traditional way. Our days are so packed with work, responsibility, errands and the like that we just don’t have time to spend with our friends and family. So, we end up using whatever means we can to keep in touch with our friends and loved ones in those limited snippets of time.
Am I Really Becoming an Anarchist?
No. I don’t mean to say that we’re all anarchists and that we are using social media to bring about the downfall of society. Rather, a better term might be socially deprived. What I mean to say is that we, as in ‘the human race’, need to become more anti-‘social media’ in order to regain our ability to socialize in a real, meaningful way.
We are treating the symptoms of this epidemic of social media usage substituting for human contact and not the cause. In this case, the cause is a general lack of time – whether real or perceived – which leaves us no space to fit in a quick coffee with a friend or lunch with mom or dad.
Ask yourself these questions:
1) Do I check to see what others are posting online when I have a free moment? Or do I call them up or meet them to have a conversation?
– If your answer is more often the former than the latter think about trying to change your habits and see that person in person vs. what they are doing online.
2) Do I measure my relationships with the people in the world by the number of friends I have on (insert social media platform here)?
– If so, you might need a reality check. Go talk to a real friend. In person. Right now. If you can’t find one to talk to then you might have an even bigger problem.
3) Have I ever gotten into an argument with someone on social media and started USING CAPITAL LETTERS because I was so angry?
– Congratulations, you’ve just shared your dirty laundry with the world and have resorted to the most passive aggressive way of resolving anything. Well done.
Call to Action – Go See a Friend Tomorrow!
Instead of making the time to see the people we love, we make excuses as to why not. And, if we follow them on Twitter or ‘friend’ them on Facebook it almost feels just like being there! But it is a mirage of friendship and not the real thing. Take those 3 hours a day that you spend on social media and turn at least 1 of them into a proper conversation with another human being. Turn off the phone/PC/tablet and go for a walk with someone. Take the first step towards reclaiming your social life!