The problem with social media

All that glitters is not gold. 

This is a paragraph devoted to what “grinds my gears.” Picture this: you’re out with a friend or significant other and you notice that a couple sits down at the table next to you. Immediately, both take out their phones and find more interest in an inanimate bright screen than the person sitting across from them. It’s sad to witness, honestly. In reality, this scenario is a telltale sign of what’s to come or worse–what’s already here.

The human species has thrived through interaction. Oral history was necessary to create cultures and maintain lifestyles. We have evolved drastically, sure, but interpersonal relationships are still critical to society. I can’t imagine texting my Paw Paw Rufus. He gets frustrated when someone calls on a cell phone, for goodness sake. If I want to speak to him, I drive or walk to his house, sit down at his dining room table and have a face-to-face conversation. These are the memories I will carry with me forever, not the ones I post on Facebook because I’m bored.

I understand the importance of social media. My degree focuses specifically on strategies, research, establishment, etc. I learn each day about how companies use SoMe to influence audiences and encourage loyalty. I get excited when I learn about a newly released platform and want to create an account as soon as I can open another tab. I become consumed with books about word of mouth, crisis communication and how everything is now influenced by the average Joe through personal accounts.

Even with the infinite love I have for my personal accounts, I have tried purging the virtual reality of SoMe from my life on a few occasions. It becomes overwhelming to keep up with each platform and post interesting content that my connections actually care about. Facebook, Twitter and other accounts provide instant gratification through the amount of likes and retweets…but those numbers can’t hold a candle to a story Paw Paw Rufus tells me about when he was learning how to two-step.

What we need to do is take more time to talk to people, regardless of who they are. We need to talk to the person next to us at the doctor’s office or in class. We need to get back to the mentality of making someone’s day a little better by just asking how they are. If we’re only here for such a short amount of time, why don’t we use every spare moment to foster more positive relationships–in the real world?

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Let’s get personal

I love social media.

I love it so much, in fact, I’m going to share all of my account standings with you. (I promise this isn’t a cheap ploy to get more followers…or maybe it is. I do think I’m mildly entertaining depending on the day.)

Facebook: I currently boast 2,691 friends

Twitter: I am followed by 617 people

Instagram: I tell my “life through pictures” to  598 followers

Pinterest: I pretty much only pin social media infographics, therefore I’m educating 65 people

Foursquare: I tell 67 people where I am

LinkedIn: I’m attempting to impress 244 connections

Gifboom and Cinemagram: I’m creative, but I’m not this creative; I have a few followers on both

My blog boasts quite a few followers, and on tumblr I have around 30 followers

So why am I telling you this and what importance does it have on your life? Probably nothing, honestly. I’ll attempt to make this relevant regardless. My major calls for twitter chats, live-streaming meetings via twitter, sharing experiences through Facebook, connecting to prospective employers through LinkedIn, expressing my creativity/individualism through Pinterest and Instagram, and even finding extra time in the week to get a couple blog posts written. I love Public Relations, and I love the art of balance.

I have noticed a recurring theme, however. There will always be a sense of anonymity when using social media platforms–even if your name and face are plastered next to what you’re saying/posting. We have lost a personal touch through our sincere reliance upon machines to get our point across. I love face-to-face interaction, and sometimes I even want to avoid it because it’s more “time consuming” or “difficult” than writing a quick tweet or creating a generic “I miss and love you, let’s hang soon!” Facebook post.

Some of the best memories I have of growing up are going to family reunions and having full-fledged conversations with my aunts, uncles, etc. They have given me so much advice, and I can’t imagine not having my family to confide in. I made it a point this year (during our annual family post-Christmas gathering) to put my phone away and leave my computer at home. And guess what? I had a damn good time. I breathed a little easier and shut the “real world” out for a few days. I laughed a little longer and listened a little more. 

I used to frantically worry that I was missing something important if I didn’t know about everything that was going on in my little world. I’ve learned to just let it be. Of course, social media makes it easier to keep up with life’s goings on. Taking an obnoxious amount of photos will never do a genuine experience justice though. (Kind of like recording a song from a concert or attempting to get the perfect picture of an artist probably won’t help you relive the experience any more than just closing your eyes and feeling the music would.)

Basically, I am contemplating a social media hiatus. Not today or even next week, but sometime soon. I am going to develop those relationships I have allowed to slip through the cracks as of late. So much for those 2500+ Facebook friends, right? I’m challenging myself to have more fun in real life and stop obsessing over posting everything I do via social media. Will you join me?