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Social Media: a Blessing and a Curse

In 2017, it’s almost hard to picture a world without social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest are just a few examples of the apps and websites that most of the world uses on a daily basis.

From the President of the United States to a local business, these platforms are used to reach thousands of people with whatever message you choose to put out into the world. It’s become so common and acceptable in today’s society that it can almost seem odd when you find a person who doesn’t use it to some extent.

I’m the first to admit that I am a junkie. I love social media… from the entertainment side to the business benefits. I think Facebook and Twitter alone are a perfect platform for business to promote, sell, and just interact with their customer base while paying next to nothing.

Of course, Facebook doses offer some advertising options for a fee, however the reach alone is worth creating an account or “page” regardless if you choose to pay.

Yet, for all the positive sides, and as I sit here writing this article that Lifestyle Frisco share all over their social media channels, I can’t help but wonder about a negative side and the ramifications social media has on people of all ages… including me.

Facebook

When Facebook was launched in 2004, it was designed for University Students (specifically the Ivy league) to connect with each other. Over the course of several years, word spread and it became a social site for students across the U.S.

What started off as a place to keep in touch with friends, family, and coworkers has eventually turned into the global juggernaut that we know today. The simple pictures of vacations and new babies sometimes get lost in the live news feeds of police chases, congressional hearings, and all the other topics served into our feeds.

At times, Facebook has turned into a more current media outlet than most of the ones we used to watch on television. Some of this is great and in today’s society the “instantaneous-ness” makes sense, but what are some of the down sides of Facebook? Can Facebook do harm? The answer is yes.

Facebook is all about the now… Information and reactions NOW. Facebook has a front row seat into the lives of many everyday people as well as celebrities and political figures. However, it’s a window that can be easily tinted and manipulated from the truth. What we see and read on Facebook is not only sometimes wrong and misinformation, but can also be damaging to the truth and the reputation of many.

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a 14 year old? I don’t mean just asking simple questions… I mean have a real conversation?

The attention span it takes to have a conversation isn’t much, and with most kids and teens today, they can’t look away from their phone or tablet long enough to have a verbal conversation.

Facebook flashes images, status updates, movie trailers, bunny videos, and news clips so fast, and is constantly updated so much that studies have shown it changes and lowers not only teens way of communicating and thinking, but adults too. Think about how many times YOU look at your phone when you get an alert? No matter where you are or what you are doing, if that phone beeps, buzzes, or rings, you look.

Some studies have shown that some young adults actually feel worse when they’re on Facebook. Before he passed away, social psychologist Leon Festinger observed that people naturally compare themselves to others in a social aspect.

Sometimes people feel like the only way to compare is to look at others, so Facebook is a quick, effortless way to engage in social comparison  A study by Chou and Edge (2012) found that chronic Facebook users tend to think that other people lead happier lives than their own, leading them to feel that life is less fair. With self esteem issues already huge in teens, Facebook can be a false reality that allows people to feel worse about themselves.

A Social Media Addiction

For the most part, everyone has a smart phone, or access to the Internet, at almost any given time. The instant, easy access to any of these platforms can seem harmless and sometimes a great time waster.

However, all of these sites are designed to make you come back over and over again as if you were going to miss something (F.O.M.O) if you didn’t check the news feed or click on a link. Again, this attacks our ability to focus and pay attention.

The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) includes a new diagnosis that has sparked a lot of controversy. A series of tests were done with people ages of 14 – 35 to gauge Internet Addiction. Facebook addiction was a key focus and the information that was logged has gained attention from both popular media and empirical journals leading to the creation of a Facebook addiction scale.

Several states have submitted their data that they have received from schools, jobs, and even local authorities. The whole purpose is to explore the seriousness of this addiction. In 2012-2013, study participants were randomly texted over the course of a week and asked what they most desired at that particular moment. They found that among their participants, social media use was craved even more than tobacco and alcohol.

Students, young adults, and even mature adults would respond with messages like “I just want to snap” and “I need to upload my vacation pics to Facebook.” These texts were sent at random times of the day and night so that they could receive answers during popular and off times of the day.

Even here in Frisco, students have shown a increase in social media infractions, according to a FISD teacher…

I have seen students waste more time on Facebook and Instagram during class time than focus on the school work or material in front them.”

Taking away phones has also become more difficult because a lot of today’s class work is done online or requires students to look at their phone or tablet. Teachers are also victim to the addictive behavior of social media.

What Did You Say?

Personally, I’ve witnessed the down side of social media. People that I run into on a daily basis seem to have forgotten how to communicate properly, hold a conversation on the phone, or make eye contact. Going out to eat and seeing couples stare at their phones instead of each other; seeing teenagers watching their phones and looking at pointless clips of animals, people, or anything that lasts less than minute; “watching a movie” rather than spending time with their family and friends are all examples of a bigger problem with today’s social media world.

I’ll admit I’m guilty of getting lost in the social media rabbit hole, too. I love Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Periscope. That being said, I’ve wasted more time than I need to on those sites and apps and found it all too easy to do.

The reality is that there has to be a balance of online life and offline life. The easy access and the simplicity of a quick glance at Twitter can’t translate into real life.

Parents have a huge responsibility to not let the world dictate their child’s lifestyle or behavior. For that matter, we as adults have a obligation to ourselves not to get trapped wasting hours in an artificial world either.

The positive side of all these apps and platforms is huge. In business, it can be a great tool to use to promote an event, new product or service, menu item, drink special, sales promotion, or announce new staff and business growth. The ability to reach thousands of people in a mere few minutes is priceless and a great asset.

Facebook is a simple way to check in on friends and family that you might not be able to see everyday or just don’t have the ability to contact by phone. Sharing pictures and videos of your new baby or house is a simple way to connect. But a true connection is a conversation, not a text, “snap,” or “tweet.”

So, take a moment to stop and really see another person, start a real-life conversation, and share your smile.