How long can you withstand the urge to check your phone?
- Less than an hour?
- A few hours?
- A few days?
- A year?
My answer on a normal day would be less than an hour.
A few hours at the most if I am at a training, in the cinema, on a flight, scuba diving or any other activity that requires my full attention or there is simply no chance to do it even if I wanted to.
No matter how much time has passed, sooner or later I will feel the urge to just grab my phone and check out what’s going on in the virtual world.
I am not sure whether it is the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) or simply the bad habit of doing it so often (similar to other bad habits like biting your nails or smoking, for example).
And the worst thing of all is that I am also doing it in the precious moments when I am surrounded by family or friends.
Lately, I even end up feeling disappointed and bored while pointlessly switching between Facebook, LinkedIn and Whatsapp, without getting any type of pleasure or satisfaction out of the process.
How about you?
Do you notice any changes in your social media behaviour?
The positive side of social media
Social media has definitely built “bridges”.
In my case I have left Bulgaria when I was 19 years old. If it wasn’t the internet and social media, I wouldn’t have been able to keep regular contact with my family for the last 12 years.
Nowadays my cousins and friends are spread across the globe and social media certainly makes the distance and the time difference between us much smaller.
Through social media I have got in contact with people who share my passion and interests who I wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise.
For me personally social media has become pretty much the only way to stay in touch with my dearest.
And most probably for many of you, too.
The less positive side of social media
Unfortunately, there is a less positive side of this story.
Even though I am an extrovert and a social creature, I notice that lately I end up feeling overwhelmed and I even feel the need to switch off my phone and search for a place where I can hide from any kind of social interaction.
I even got to the point of switching off my 4G and WIFI for two whole days in the same week! The so called “digital fast”. I deliberately chose a Monday and a Saturday for the experiment as these are my busiest days of the week and the weekend.
It’s good to know how everyone is doing all over the globe but this overload of information overwhelms our brains. Or at least mine 😉
According Robin Dunbar our brains are able to sustain about +/- 150 meaningful social relationships (the so called Dunbar number). This is “the number of people we can have a relationship with involving trust and obligation which means that there’s some personal history, not just names and faces”.
Yet many of us have 300 or more friends on Facebook. Not not mention our connections and followers on other social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram, for example.
This means that on average we will need to greet at least one person a day for his/her birthday. And we even feel guilty if we don’t do it because we now have no excuse that we didn’t know the date.
The new standard for expressing our love and appreciation on such an occasion would be to share a collage of pictures pointing out some nice memories, accompanied by a story about why this person means so much to us.
You can say that there is nothing wrong with that. And there really isn’t, especially if we live in different countries.
But can you remember the last time you actually sent a birthday card or a small gift, instead?
How about the last time you organized a surprise birthday party for your best friend, so that he/she can really feel special?
- Last year?
- Two years ago?
Now think about the moments when you feel like screaming or throwing away your phone because of the pressure to respond to so many messages. Especially if you have been offline for a few days.
It’s no longer only friends and family but it’s also our interest groups, work chats, clients who require our constant attention and quick reactions.
Can you think of a situation when a friend of family member has been angry at you because you have seen their message but you haven’t responded immediately?
Because I definitely can.
People don’t even know what you are doing at the time of receiving their message and whether you are actually able to respond at that very moment but they expect an immediate reaction simply because you are online.
If you think about it you wouldn’t just burst into your friend’s house because they didn’t open the front door when you rang, would you?
It’s kind of sad that for the sake of our convenience we would rather turn to our devices instead of go out and meet our friends. It’s just so much easier and less time consuming to send a message whenever we feel like it and read it and respond to it whenever suits us best.
Why go through the trouble of scheduling an appointment and waiting until we can finally meet someone in person?!
And do you still remember the feeling of looking forward to seeing each other after some time being apart?
Thanks to my social media experiment I realized that because I am sharing all kind of insignificant information with my husband during my work day I am actually no longer looking forward to seeing him at the end of the day. But as we didn’t have contact with each other on my “no social media” Monday I was curious to hear all about his day.
Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to be pessimistic here.
Social media and the Digital Revolution have brought a lot of advantages and improvements to our lives.
I am just wondering what’s next?
In a world of online shopping, digital education, working from home and even groceries being delivered directly to our fridge, I believe that life as we know it today will change and we probably won’t even need to get out of our homes in the near future.
Does this mean that the face-to-face interaction will fully disappear?
I believe it’s all about finding the right balance. As with most things in life.
Anything new is exciting until it becomes obsessive and threatening.
Similar to our “Out of Office Reply” we will probably need an “Out of Social Media Reply” or a status “Offline” or “Unplugged” in order to grant ourselves the opportunity to be fully present where we are.
Perhaps the time has come to remember what respect for people’s needs and preferences means.
The fact that someone needs to go offline should tell us to leave them alone. For as long as they need it.
If someone is online but not responding to our message means that the moment is not right and not necessarily that we are not important enough for them.
I hope we will live long enough to see how our lives and social interactions will look like in 10, 20, 30 years from now.
Will we ever feel closer to each other or even more apart?
* All images in this article have been obtained via Pixabay.com.