Vices and virtues of social networking
My time on Facebook came to a halt this summer after 15 people failed to recognize the difference between a monkey and a gorilla in photos a friend posted from the zoo.
I would not expect everyone to know the difference, and it is an easy mistake for those not familiar with the primates, but for some reason it angered me at the time. Perhaps I had a short fuse after being inundated with posts ranging from needing to take a shower to those pre-workout selfies at the gym – all of which I saw numerous times on my news feed.
At any rate, I decided to take a break from Facebook and other social networking sites for an entire month as a personal experiment to see if and how my life would change without it.
This was not an easy task to begin for someone who is used to checking her Facebook 15-20 times a day, and I did have a few misgivings at first. For instance, the pessimist in me was afraid that a friend would end up in the hospital and I would not know it.
My fear of missing important information was not unfounded because three years ago I found out through Facebook that my aunt gave birth to twins two days prior to seeing her update.
I felt guilty that I was not there for her at the time, but maybe it did not say anything about me, rather, it said everything about how social media has complicated and de-personalized our communication practices. Nowadays, it seems people would rather type one update to reach a large audience instead of taking the time to send more meaningful, individualistic responses.
Nevertheless, I ignored my apprehension, logged out of my account and began to reap the rewards of living life unplugged.
Not a week into my experiment, I already saw an improvement in my life. I felt happier, my conversations had more depth, I spent more time outdoors, and overall I just appreciated life a lot more. Simply put, I was experiencing life in real time again instead of through a screen.
When I finally did return to social networking a month later, I was surprised to find that I did not miss much at all. Even more shocking was how quickly I caught up on a month’s worth of information when I used to refresh my news feed daily.
Throughout the whole process I learned more about myself and now have a more informed opinion how social networking is changing our society.
Most of all, I learned to identify social networking as a tool instead of an extension of one’s life. I don’t think social networks were ever intended to replace face-to-face human interaction, but were created to be aides in interpersonal communication. It should be obvious, but because of how pervasive social media has become in our culture, it is easy to forget.
Today I am back to social networking, only this time I am aware of my usage and motivations for engaging with the sites. I have a healthier online presence and now follow my own advice to sit back, take a deep breath and unplug.
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