It’s not breaking news to say that social media is immensely popular. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have millions of active users each and every day, and both have become integrated as part of modern culture. Terms like ‘tweet’ and ‘status update’ are widely known and recognized for being associated with social media. At any given time, most people are no more than a couple clicks or taps away from being connected with most of their friends and family through social media channels.
In many ways, this is a great thing. It allows you to stay close with people you care about, get news about them at an incredibly fast pace, see pictures, play games, and much more. On the surface, social media is one of the best things about living in a modern society.
A closer look, however, reveals a darker side that many social media users probably recognize but would rather ignore. With so much time spent ‘virtually’ together, people can start to get on each other’s nerves more than ever before. After a while, it seems like social media is used more for criticizing others than it is for genuinely sharing fun and positive experiences. The phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ seems especially appropriate when discussing social media.
It is important to note that the sites themselves are not necessarily to blame for these downsides. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter simply provide the platform – it is up to the users to get out of it what they will. There are certainly healthy and productive ways to use all of the various social media outlets to add entertainment and interaction to daily life.
In order to understand when social media can start to become a negative influence in your life, let’s take a quick look at some warning signs. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but should at least trigger some concern that maybe you need to step back from these platforms.
- Logging On Compulsively. If you find yourself logging in to social media at all times throughout the day, it might be time to reconsider your habits. Negativity and cynicism can easily start to appear when you are ready the same posts and tweets multiple times throughout the day, or logging back in time after time to see what others might be commenting on. When you are more concerned with the thoughts and actions of others than your own, it is easy to lose control of your life.
- Talking behind Someone’s Back about Social Media Activity. Another common sign that social media is having a negative effect on your life is when you go off of social media to criticize other people’s behavior on it. For example, texting your friend about what another friend said on Facebook is not necessarily a healthy behavior that is going to lead to contentment and happiness.
- Checking Out of Real-World Conversations. This is a common one, yet many people don’t seem able to kick the habit. If you are checking social media on your phone at the expense of paying attention to people who are right in front of you, you might want to think about what effect it is having on your life. Instead of connecting you with people, this is a sign that it is actually isolating you from the people you spend time with.
What to do next?
If you decide that not all of the effects social media is having on your life are positive ones, take action before the problem gets worse. Does this mean you have to delete all of your accounts and swear of social media forever? No – of course not. Moderation is the key to a healthy balance, so you need to find ways to limit your time on social media. One good place to start is to simply log out of your accounts when you are done looking at them. When you are always logged in, it is too easy to just click back into the site and start looking around again. By having to reenter your email address and password each time, you will be less motivated to go back with such frequency.
Another good habit to get into is to put away your phone or tablet when you are in the company of others that you could be socializing with. Put your phone in your pocket or your purse and leave it alone until the gathering has ended. You just might be amazed at how much more fun you can have without the distraction of social media at your fingertips.
The point of this article is not to make social media out to be the end of civilization or anything of that sort. It is a highly useful, and fun, way to engage with others by taking advantage of the technology that we now have at our disposal. It can, however, be taken too far. Just as with most things in life, moderation is a good rule to live by. Limit your stay on social media to reasonable amounts of time and you are more likely to strike a healthy balance in the long-run.