We’re simultaneously and strangely the least connected and most connected we’ve ever been – garnering the front row seat to the onstage production of the social media accounts of family, friends, and acquaintances, often without an inkling of the work happening behind the scenes in everyday life moments. As many have pointed out before us, the very act of posting a picture takes you out of the moment itself. Even if it’s just for a second, you’ve lost some amount of time in a moment or memory that you can’t get back.
Of course, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of our go-to sites have been around long enough now that we’ve begun to call their collective bluff, acknowledging that we’re only seeing edited highlight reel snippets of the bigger picture – new jobs, engagements, weddings, babies, vacations – when we know that so much more (and let’s be real, mundane) exists. There’s a reason why those articles titled “X On Instagram vs X In Real Life” are popular – we know it’s true.
Tomorrow is National Day of Unplugging and while we’re hardly suggesting that you throw your phone in a safe for the next 24 hours and do away with it completely (wouldn’t that be the pot calling the kettle black), it’s worth creating a conversation around today’s human-technology relationship seeing as we spend a lot of time invested in it.
It’s easy to say that we’re “too” wired-in, or that we’re too focused on social media. Some people have even gone so far as to quit social media entirely. The ironic thing is that when people do that, they often want to announce the fact that they’re quitting social media…but then no longer have a platform on which to do so.
Social media is an easy target to blame for our issues with it, because (thankfully) it can’t talk back. If it could, it’d likely tell us we’re the ones in the driver’s seat of our relationship and we can create as healthy or as unhealthy of an approach to it as we please.
The same way we notice that we’ve had one too many cookies, could have gone without another margarita, and didn’t need to finish the series on Netflix late last night, we have the option of ‘x’ing out and scrolling away from the sites, people, and articles that inevitably elevate our heart rate and offend us. If we are mindfully aware of our usage of social media, then we are the ones in control, and not the other way around.
Like anything else in life, moderation is key. Although our knee jerk reaction may be to pick a side: (hopelessly) devoted to our phones or swearing against them completely, a middle ground and more mindful approach is possible.
Furthermore, it’s impractical in this day and age of 2016 to suggest that the solution to our “wired in” problem is to quit social media entirely. The majority of employers today are looking for knowledge, expertise, and proficiency in social media applications. It is becoming an everyday technology in a similar way that Microsoft Office Suite is an expected addition to one’s resume. To do away with social media entirely would be doing yourself a disservice in a lot of ways.
So what do we do then? Here’s a thought – instead of turning your phone off completely tomorrow on National Day of Unplugging, why not aim for a day of mindful social media usage? Meaning, take a mental note of what websites or social media pages you visit. What makes you laugh? What makes you think? What makes you roll your eyes and want to go on a Kanye-level Twitter rant? We’re suggesting that instead of choosing an “all or nothing” approach that’s hard to sustain, we aim instead to being more conscious of our usage. After all, if we choose the way we use our device, we are the ones in control. It’s that simple.