By Alexandra Smith
There’s no denying that social media is a large part of many people’s lives as well as American culture. According to an Aug. 2011 article on nytimes.com, “one in every four-and-a-half minutes spent on the Web is spent on a social networking site or blog.” Colleges are even catching on to this trend. A Sept. 9, 2013 article on usatoday.com noted that “Southern New Hampshire University offers a social media marketing M.B.A, and Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y. offers an M.B.A is social media management.”
The presence, and even importance, of social media in American culture today may be undeniable, but is it always good?
An April 2011 article on nytimes.com noted an interesting problem commonly occurring in this digital era. The author, Jenna Wortham, claims “It’s known as FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out,’ and refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram.”
I can definitely relate to the concept of “FOMO.” On a Friday night in July, I spent the evening by myself. I read a few chapters of a novel, and cooked dinner for myself. Content, I settled onto my couch with my phone, and scanned my Facebook feed. One friend posted pictures of her and a group of friends at a restaurant. Another updated his status, posting about a bonfire he was having that night. Yet another posted pictures of her and another friend grinning while holding up shopping bags at a local mall.
I was suddenly restless. Did I spend my Friday the wrong way? Should I have gone out to eat with a few friends? Maybe I should have gone shopping. Sitting in front of a warm bonfire would have been fun, too. When I began asking myself those questions, I knew it was time to take a break and reevaluate my relationship with social media.
I deactivated my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for two weeks. What happened? I suddenly had more free time. I became a better listener, and I was more present in every moment because I wasn’t constantly scanning my various social media feeds.
I came to realize that social media shouldn’t impact me the way it did that Friday night in July. I should never feel as though I’ve made the wrong decision about how to spend my time based on what others are posting on social media. What most people post on social media is only part of their lives, anyways. Usually the most fun parts of their lives. People can totally control their image on these sites, and when I allowed what I perceived of someone’s life impact me, I knew social media had too much control over my life.
A Nov. 2012 article on naturalnews.com noted that “the more social circles people have represented among their Facebook friends, the more stressful they find Facebook to use.” Reading articles about social media and its sometimes negative impact on users makes me wonder how people can find a balance between using social media and not letting it control their emotions.
The lesson I learned from my social media hiatus is fairly simple. Before using social media, I question if it will enhance my life, and if my time could be spent in a more productive way. I’m still working on not allowing social media to impact my emotions, but figuring out how to limit its influence on my life has been extremely beneficial.