By Megan Wirts
I spend a lot of time on social media. Probably too much time. I am involved with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. I can’t keep it all straight. I started with a MySpace page back in 2005. You could listen to new music and follow your friends. You could also cause major drama by taking someone out of your Top 8. It was a whole new world. Then in 2008 I followed the masses over to Facebook. When I was going to college and then subsequently working it was just a way to share photos of my kids with family and friends occasionally sprinkling in a funny story or random thought. It was nice to reconnect with people and be able to stay in touch with friends that were far from home.
Then I became disabled, had to quit working and...
...I started spending hours looking at Facebook and Pinterest. I started an Instagram and Twitter soon followed. I wanted to be as connected as possible to the outside world. I was being forced by my illness to be home alone considerably more often than I would like and this is how I felt that connection. However, I have a love/hate relationship with it all. Sometimes I am so distracted by it that I miss things that are happening right in front of me. A funny joke my friend said, a story about my husband’s day, or something that happened at school that day. All ignored by me because my face is in my phone. Although now I know the exact moment that someone I haven’t seen in 15 years finds out they are pregnant because they are live-streaming themselves peeing on an EPT. Now that’s some pretty compelling stuff.
I noticed something else happening too. My newsfeed was full of political and religious memes and articles. All of them pointing fingers at the other side and I was starting to take it personally and get angry and sad. I know that sounds completely irrational and I don’t really get offended all that easily. In fact, I am probably the one being offensive most of the time. However, when 99% of your interaction with people is online and that is the only side of them you see, you forget that they have other facets to their personality. I am trying to remember that people exist outside of social media and that for the majority of people it isn’t who they really are.
I try not to get too political on my social media accounts, but I will post something if I find it humorous or if it really resonates with me. I will also comment on other people’s posts if I feel so inclined and occasionally that gets me into trouble. Mostly because you can’t get a person’s tone very well through text, but also because I just can’t keep my mouth shut when I should.
So, I am definitely not claiming to be perfect by any means, pretty sure I am far from it. I probably share too much of my personal life and might too often dump my emotional garbage out on Facebook.
My husband is not on social media at all. Sometimes I wonder how he can even live like that! How can he not want to know when his former neighbors 2nd cousin’s brother in law’s uncle has his gall bladder removed?! I need to know that kind of stuff, don’t you? Just like I am pretty sure each one of my 500+ friends wants to know what I am having for lunch and my thoughts on the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. (I promise no spoilers.) This is important stuff people.
Alas, I have decided that I need to find a balance between life and the intense distraction that is social media. Here are 3 simple rules, which I promise to actually implement into my life, for lessening the distraction:
I have fully accepted that I can never completely give it up and these three rules seem reasonable enough. This is the world we live in now. I need it to network and for research. If I call it networking and research it sounds more professional than if I call it what it really is, being nosey and self-promotion. Honestly, though, I want to live this life I am given and, well, social media is part of it. It just doesn’t have to consume it.
I love social media and all that is has to offer. I love the connections and friendships that it has given me. I have friends that I have known for over 10 years because of social media and have never once met them face to face and yet I consider them some of my closest confidants. Social media should enhance, connect, entertain and inform, not make you feel bad about yourself or distract you from the world that is happening right in front of your face.
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“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
- Eric Qualman