Recently, there has been a push in the medical community to acknowledge “Internet Addiction” as a legitimate disease. As of 2012, people are spending on average 13 hours a week on the internet, and the majority of the time is spent on social media sites. Americans currently average around 3.2 hours a day on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Social media usage not only takes up a large amount of our time but has also been linked to depression, social isolation and suicide. It seems like the solution to these troubles would be to simply disconnect ourselves from our social networking sites and ignore the callings of the digital world.
Picture Courtesy of Flickr User xjara69
But is that really possible? After investing vast amounts of time and energy into building the perfect online presence through our Facebook and Linkedin profiles, can we find the heart to simply abandon all that work? And after we do that, how will we contact our friends? How will we stay up-to-date with all of the news that we attain from Facebook posts and pictures? Can we really discard our precious online profiles that easily?
No way. Quitting the digital world is really not an option when you are the only one considering it. Mark MacGuire states that in today’s networked world, “shutting yourself off means disconnecting from real people that aren’t willing (or able) to return to pre-networked life with you.”
That quote sums up a lot of my feelings about social media. At first, social media was a novelty for me, something that interested me and I wanted to explore myself. Now, around five years later, the only reason I still use social media is because everyone else is using it. I feel like if I did not use it, I would be missing out on important social updates and potentially lose out on offline bonding experiences. However, if I had the choice to remove Facebook and Twitter and all other social networks from existence I would take that option in a heartbeat.
There are many ways that social media impacts our offline lives. With the existence of social media, the barriers to communicating with people in different physical spaces are very low. This can lead to people communicating with other people through online means when they are in a unfamiliar social setting in order to avoid awkward encounters. This causes people to miss out on many offline bonding opportunities because they believe that the online relationships they have are sufficient for their social wellbeing.
In addition to that, the ease of contacting someone even when they are not in the same physical location as you makes constant communication a requirement instead of a privilege. People oftentimes feel emotionally hurt when they know someone is not texting/messaging them when the other person is capable of sending a message. I think that this kind of pressure to constantly communicate even when people are not not together is suffocating, almost detrimental to many offline relationships.
In conclusion, I really feel like social media has became a pervasive element in modern society, but I personally wish it wasn’t. In my room at night, my roommates and I spend more time quietly typing into our laptops instead of socializing or trying to meet new people. I know that if I do not talk to some of my friends for a period of time, they will feel like I am neglecting them because they know how easy it is to send a Facebook or Skype message. This has become the social norm, and I will continue to communicate in this fashion with my friends because I feel like there is no way to avoid this kind of networked-life without harming offline relationships.