Is Social Media Taking Over Your Life?
It is easy to lose yourself in social media without realizing it. If you feel sometimes that your life consists entirely of going from Facebook to Whatapp to SnapChat to Twitter, you are not alone. Millions of people, young and old, feel the same. It is wrong to say that all human relationships have become subsumed in social media. The truth of the matter is that face-to-face interactions and relationships are what spur activity on social media.
As a college student or working professional, you make friends, organize groups, and put together events. This leads to the unconscious formation of tribes. And the members of all tribes want instinctively to know what is going on with other members. You don’t want to be left out; you want to be part of the latest gossip, planning, and developments in everyone else’s life. None of this feels forced or intrusive; indeed, not checking social media and responding to messages and updates comes off as being unsociable and unfriendly. Checking and posting is your life and that of those to whom you are connected.
It is common nowadays for people to complain about the amount of time that they and their friends spend on social media. And there are those who temporarily shut down or abrogate their accounts in an act of facile defiance. But these gestures do not constitute a sustainable solution. To survive in the modern social world you must be on social media. The point is not to extract yourself from it, as from a prison, but to control how and when you use it.
The how and when of the thing hang together. But before I press this argument further I must point out an exception. For many people—and you may be one of them—social media is not a mere tool of amusement; it is the primary means by which you organize and execute your business. Your livelihood is made through the virtual sphere, and so you are compelled to spend a great deal of time on Facebook, Twitter, etc. If this is your life, then I can offer no advice. You must do what you need to do to make money.
If you use social media mainly to keep in touch with friends then you should question whether it is preventing you from getting important things done. Scrolling through updates and contributing to them can be a welcome distraction after an intense period of work. It can be an unwelcome distraction if by the time you exit your SnapChat or Whatsapp account you realize you’ve not done a scrap of real work—not one thing that advances your career or that will help you get on in life.
Such wastage begins to add up after a while. Sometimes it is better to resist sharing your every thought and sentiment with the world, and then, perhaps the greatest source of the time sinkhole, answering those who respond to them. To get back control of your life you must learn the increasingly rare art of restraint.
Social media is a great and growing part of our lives. It is a useful tool for keeping in touch with the people we care about most. The thing to remember is that it is a tool: it is we that must use it and not it that gets to use us.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.