A great man, Charles Chesnutt, once said
“We sometimes underestimate the influence of little things.”
Isn’t that so true? Isn’t it so easy to forget the importance of things like dandelion flowers or sweet scribbled stories that make no sense at all? Life becomes so cluttered with social media that we sometimes forget to look up and take in the beauty of the world around us. It’s not without consequence.
A recent study estimated that the average person will spend about 43,000 hours on social media over the course of their lifetime.
That’s approximately 5 years. The closest second is television, with everything else “life” trailing far behind. The number is only increasing as new features roll out.
It’s so easy, now, to simply look down. With the touch of a button we’re connected to
the world, but missing the world closest to our hearts.
The true effects are startling.
The Kids Will Struggle
Children who are ignored, which is essentially what happens when we hide behind a screen, often struggle with attachment problems. The indifference causes them to struggle with forming relationships, and they may act out or behave aggressively. Additionally, parents concentrated on social media are more likely to respond irritably when interrupted, teaching children their needs are less important.
As they get older, the lack of stability and predictability they’ve encountered leads to a myriad of other struggles – depression, addiction, poor relationships and divorce. Like a pebble in the water, it spreads.
Businesses frequently utilize businesses to connect with clients, but are then linked to a decrease in seeking client relationships. Instead of seeking out strong business relationships, we’re seeking visibility with ease, and are missing the benefits of consumer relations. In addition, employees waste an abundance of company time secretly checking in on media accounts.
As a student, it’s nearly impossible to gain strong study habits and a solid work ethic with social networks just a click away. A healthy education can be very seriously jeopardized with the overuse of social media, which can have life-long repercussions.
It starts with an excess of time spent away from activities that encourage strong emotional health – such as exercising, sports, or other direct social activities. The more time spent on social media, the stronger the disconnect. When social bonding decreases, loneliness and depression increase. Children and young adults require social bonding as a part of development, and are most susceptible to the brain rewiring that happens when isolated.
It’s easy to get caught up in chat rooms or groups with people who encourage negative thoughts, feelings, or actions. Behind a computer or phone screen all tone is lost in conversation. It is easy to miscommunicate intended emotions when words hold all the power online.
To that same point, the glamorous lifestyles boasted on Facebook or Twitter are often largely by exaggeration. Still, it’s hard to disconnect from what we’re seeing and recognize it is not real. It’s easy to minimize the positives in our own lives and envy what we see.
Cyber bullying is very real. Children, of course, are most impressionable and easily damaged. The devastation caused by these attacks leave big, permanent scars. The ability to be anonymous creates monsters. These cowards thrive where they don’t have to make eye contact with victims. In several well documented cases victims have even been driven to suicide. As many as 40% of young social media users feel they have been victims of some form of online bullying.
The Loss of What’s Real
People are beginning to struggle to distinguish meaningful relationships with the casual relationships they’re making online. With the effort required to foster and maintain true connections, and the ease social media provides for pseudo- friends, meaningful relationships dwindle away.
Of course, none of us intends to hurt our children. Many social media addicts (yes, it truly is a form of addiction) are otherwise wonderful, involved parents. Unfortunately, those families are not immune to the hurt caused through social media. It’s vital we each recognize the reality of our situation to make the appropriate changes.
So what do we do?
Limit screen time. We hear all the time about limiting the time our children spend on technology. But what about us, as adults? We should adhere to those same limits.
One simple way to limit our own screen time is to simply make it unavailable. We once survived without a phone in our pockets. Leave it in a purse or on a table. Take in the world around you. You don’t need a picture every time. When you truly savor the moment, you’ll remember it.
Read, read, read. Books are much more interesting, anyway. Check out Goodreads. It’s a great way to find what books will work best for you. Read to your kids, they’ll love it more than any television show. In fact, HERE is a 5 – star book you’ll all love.
Play. I don’t just mean let them drive on you while you silently cringe. I mean get down and dirty. Play in the mud. Color with chalk. Build a fort. There are hundreds of ways you can really interact. You’ll learn so much more about one another than you ever could checking in on Facebook.
You’ll be glad you did.
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