(For the next five-minutes that you read this article, kindly close all the other tabs and devices. Simply focus on this article. And, if you find the very thought of it difficult then this article is a must read for you)
Social media has become an inseparable part of our existence. One of the pressing (and often overlooked) concerns is the way social media affects our real-time relationships. The existing notion about the online platforms is that they give us round-the-clock quality connectivity. Is that really true?
Here are 7 ways in which the social media epidemic might interfere with our real-life relationships:
(1) Carnival of Distraction:
It is interesting how a lifeless beeping device can become more important to us than the interesting people that surround us at any given moment.
Our physical space is constantly punctuated by notifications, alerts and beeps. And, in this state of perpetual interruption, our engagement with people around us becomes distracted. We are not able to be present in the moment. Our mind is in an “anticipation mode.” We feel restless if we ignore a notification or an unread mail. Consequently, it affects the depth of our engagement, focus, mindfulness and presence of mind.
Further, the issue of digital addiction has become very serious in the way it encroaches on the time that was meant for other activities: like sleep, food, solitude, family and so on.
(2) Multitasking is a Myth
In today’s world, it has become a norm to multi-task. However, all studies done on the subject evidence a decrease in efficiency of work-jugglers. Smart phone companies market multitasking as a ‘natural’ phenomenon to sell their products. But the reality is that doing several tasks simultaneously dilutes the work-quality, besides being detrimental to one’s peace of mind. Also, the intellectual technologies of focus and meditative concentration are necessary for the pursuit of excellence in all walks of life.
Honestly, when we chat with five people simultaneously, how far are we able to genuine connect with each one of them?
It is like a wild-fire of alerts that we are running from and towards. In the process, how much of unnecessary time, mind and words are dispersed in random directions.
(3) Inter-personal Relationships
For any relationship to work, we need to spend quality time with each other. Using virtual media as a substitute for spending time with each other makes it difficult for us to retain the moments that substantially add on to the relationship.
The communication on any of the social or digital medium lacks the non-verbal cues which are absolutely necessary to add depth. In the absence of such emotional gestures, touch, smile, eye-contact; social media becomes unreliable to build interpersonal relationships.
(4) Strategic Medium
A lot of us might think the way one engages with virtual medium is a highly subjective question. However, by its very definition, medium mediates. It mediates on all three levels -the sender, the receiver and the message.
We would like to believe that each individual has the freedom/conscious choice to draw the line between using and being used. Thankfully, the choice exists. But, the medium strategically employs ways and means to encourage an addictive indulgence. For example, the use of terminology of ‘like’ seems to quantify one’s likeability. The number of likes if taken as a marker of self-worth can be a highly deceptive scale of self-assessment! A relationship cannot be built over a platform which seeks to objectify the subjective aspects of one’s life.
(5) Rise of Psychological Problems
Do you know that obsession with one’s online representation has led to an increase in anxiety and depression rates? People seek to fit in certain parameters of ‘likeability’. As a result, they have started to depend on external validation in order to feel good, thus getting caught in a powerful psychological trap. Frequently and often inadvertently, people end up comparing themselves with others and end up feeling a sense of inadequacy and sadness.
This affects one’s self-esteem and one’s relationship with oneself and others.
(6) Dilution of emotions
The initial idea of social media was to mirror and represent our offline existence. Social media was to keep an online memoir of life-events – but now it is flipped. Offline activities are done in a way to control our online selves.
When we go to any place or event, we make sure to get that perfect photo, to tag people, to crop in/out and to check-in. Imagine the anxiety when you really want to update something and there is no network coverage. Are we negotiating with our peace of mind? While we might be physically present at a certain place, all our mental energy goes in constructing a favourable online representation. Then, life becomes like a scripted performance.
The smiles, the surprises, the victories, the gifts – all have been diluted as we do not create enough emotional presence in the real moments to experience and live them to the fullest!
It might seem that social media empowers introverts by providing them a stage for self-expression. This is only partially valid. On one hand, social media gives people a platform to express their opinions, but on the other hand, it also inhibits them from stepping out of their comfort-zone to meet people in the real world. Virtual interactions can complement real time conversations but should not be used to substitute them.
So what can you do to have a better connect, with yourself and other?
To start with, try switching on to the flight mode when you return home and during sleep hours. And, you would realize how much more the world has outside that tiny screen of your mobile/laptop.
(Now, you can again ‘choose’ to go back to multiple-tabs)
[About the author : Charnita Arora is a Life Coach and the founding imagineer at Perfect Life Spot (A Well-Being Nest). A teacher, scholar, traveller, life-researcher, print model, but most importantly, a humanist, who believes that every individual is an endless space of possibilities. PLS conducts experiential skill-building workshops in schools, colleges, engineering/ management institutes and corporate spaces for self-actualization, happiness and well-being.
Image credit : shutterstock