I open Instagram. I begin scrolling. I double-tap. A few minutes turns into ten. I halfway resist the feeling of satisfaction when my follower count outnumbers how many I am following. Yes, I am a millennial who is increasingly connected through various social media. But I want to be a more conscious and thoughtful user without letting it consume me.
In an article about the new Apple Watch, Relevant magazine concluded with, “But, as with all devices, [the watch’s] most impressive feature might just be its ability to distract you from the human experience.”
While social media can certainly enhance our lives, I believe our dependence on it is slowly eating away at our real, face-to-face relationships. Those relationships are being replaced with instant, generally superficial communication, communication that doesn’t actually help us know people better.
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and use it often. Sometimes, too often. But as I evaluate my relationships — friendships, acquaintances, professional relationships — I realize that social media hasn’t helped me get to know the people in my life better. It allows me to know where they like to eat, who they are friends with and when they become engaged (sometimes just moments later).
The experience of hearing a person’s voice, developing rapport, laughing together and making conversation are crucial elements in developing a relationship. These elements are replaced with following, liking, commenting.
So how can we redeem the time we spend on social media? I believe the first key in thoughtful, conscious social media usage is balance. Recognize that social media has a place and a purpose, but also recognize when it affects you negatively or eats away too much time. Though it can be difficult as a college student to completely disconnect, don’t be afraid to take a short break from your social media apps. Some of my friends have taken a social media fast or decided to turn off social media during finals week so they can better focus on other things. Find a balance for your own usage and stick to it.
Second, be thoughtful with your social media usage. Think about why you specifically use social media and evaluate whether you are using it for that purpose. Be thoughtful about who you are connecting with and why you are sharing a certain status or photo.
This year, don’t let technology distract you from the beauty and simplicity of human relationships. Enjoy the simple moments with friends and family, professors and mentors. Make intentional efforts to sit down for coffee, to go on a walk or invite someone to your living space. And if necessary, re-learn the art of getting to know someone.