The Disconnect of Being Too Connected

Let me preface by saying that I’m a big advocator for technology. At an individual-level, I can connect with friends from high school who live too far away via Facebook, I can boost my career profile on LinkedIn when it’s time for a job hunt, I can check my personal and professional emails any time of day. I shop online, I have social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook, I send goofy filtered selfies on Snapchat, I build Pinterest boards regularly. My phone is my alarm clock, my flashlight and I admittedly text a fair amount (#unlimited data) to friends and family with creative group names. But as more apps are downloaded, more connections and friends and followers are gained, is the technology that’s supposed to connect us…disconnecting us?

Studies have shown that social media can lead to depression and/or anxiety. Your happiness can be dependent on how many likes you have or if you’re included in activities and outings. If you’re not, social media can encourage feelings of exclusion (#FOMO) or failure. The feeling of envy or belief that other people are leading happier or more successful lives is exasperated when Facebook allows relationship statuses to show up in newsfeeds. In a world seeking inclusion and diversity, are we really dependent upon a thumbs up on social media for self-esteem?

Dating apps are more popular than ever, especially for the college and post-grad age. When meeting people and dating seem more difficult than ever, the simple act of swiping right can be extremely appealing. However, if social media wasn’t addictive enough, apps like Tinder and Bumble draw even more screen time. Not only are you swiping left or right, you’re “matching” with people throughout the day, even if you don’t have the application open. There’s the waiting game to see who will message first, then thinking of a witty response. Eventually, some lucky contenders advance to a real phone number and messaging begins from there. Dating apps allow you to juggle multiple conversations and multiple partners at once, encouraged by the fact that you may never meet in person or the conversation may die out and you can move on in a flash. Further, dating apps like Tinder are built on purely surface impressions – you have a few photos and a quick bio to either have someone like you or move on. What happened to “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” or “it’s what’s inside that matters?”

While I have a growing concern about how we appear on social media and what it can do for our mental health, I have a bigger concern– its impact on our interpersonal reaction. With Facebook messenger, Instagram likes, constant app notifications, we always check our phones. But aren’t we too attached? Personally, it’s my biggest pet peeve when I’m talking to someone and they pick up their phone to check it. Sure, maybe they have a good reason – it’s their mom wanting something, their apartment is flooding, their calendar alert popped up. Understandable. But the worst is when you’re having a conversation over dinner and they’re scrolling through their newsfeed. The mindless scrolling that serves no purpose except to divert their attention. Most people don’t even realize they’re doing it, it’s become a habit. Just as bad as biting your nails (guilty), you reach for your phone for validation that you aren’t missing out on something, that people are liking your recent photo or that someone wants to talk to you because they thought you looked hot in the 15 seconds they spent on your dating profile before moving their thumb in one direction.

Before this burst of technology, wouldn’t it have been rude if you were talking to someone and they suddenly interrupted to talk to another person? Or if they picked up the paper to check out the news. When did we become complacent in letting our phones dictate our self-esteem, our happiness, our entertainment? Will this eventually lead us to forget basic manners, sensitivity and empathy?

To keep this from happening to me, I’ve taken steps to let social media play less of a role in my life. I don’t wake up and check social media. I turn off my alarm and don’t open any social media apps until I arrive at work about an hour and a half after I wake up.

I turned off all social media notifications on my phone. There are no pings or noises to alert me when someone likes a photo. I won’t allow myself any  social media before bed. Not only is screen time harmful to your sleep cycle, it’ll have you thinking about what other people are doing in the world instead of your eight hours of rest.

I also purged all negativity (that I could). If there was a friend who constantly ranted or put people down, they were either unfriended and/or unfollowed.

Would you try limiting your social media? Tweet us @LitDarling.

 

Kelly Morrison Menk

Kelly Morrison Menk

When not writing, Kelly works as a communications associate at a nonprofit in Washington, DC. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Mary Washington and Master's in Communication from George Mason University. She firmly believes that running daily allows her to continue her serious Coca-Cola addiction without repercussions (no, Pepsi is not the same). When she's not working or fighting horrible DC traffic, you can find her sleeping, eating or attempting to train her two pups.
Kelly Morrison Menk