On a recent trip, I stumbled across a journal. Titled “52 Lists for Happiness,” I purchased it thinking it would help give me inspiration for my writings. I have to admit, much to my own chagrin, that I have enjoyed filling out these lists each week. It gives me small doses to help get my mind going and to hold me responsible for what I think and feel about the world around me. I enjoy engaging my mind on things that make me get out of my comfort zone and stare hard at myself in the mirror. It is a way for me to hold my thoughts and actions accountable.
One list I completed, asking “what makes me happy right now,” forced me to step back and really contemplate what things make me smile. It all involved interacting with friends or family, or doing something hands-on like journaling on this blog. Not once did I write “scroll the newsfeed on Facebook” or “see the latest pictures on Instagram.” Don’t get me wrong here because I use these sites often, especially when it comes to sharing the things I choose to write and publish for the world (A.K.A. my social media friends) to see and hopefully read. But I also think social media has a very dark and convoluted side to it.
As a mom, I often wonder what the impact, both positive and negative, social media will have on my own kids. The benefits are quite obvious, such as connecting to family members from across the country or even across continents. It can be a way to share news and spread viewpoints or ideas. Take this year’s election as an example of how social media can impact viewpoints and leadership roles. A click of a button can send a message for millions to see in an instant. But is there something frightening about the kind of power that simple act can evoke? Do we become so immune to the images displayed across social media that we turn a cheek away from something that could be vitally important to someone else?
I have young kids who are easily influenced by the technologies our society offers. iPads, iPhones, and other devices become habitual in nature instead of picking up a book or grabbing a favorite toy as a form of entertainment. You hear of health implications from so much exposure to technology, ranging from eyesight problems to sleep disturbances. Then you run into the entire genre of cyberbullying, which affects kids of all ages. Did you ever think one day the image of a single eyeball would represent someone tearing down another individual? The power social media can allow a person who enjoys belittling others is astronomical and it is something we will have to battle and endure for decades to come. In the “old days,” that kind of bullying was done in person or on the school bus.
Another side of social media that may not cross many minds is the loss of arts like letter writing and phone conversations. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and texting all have left a void for the younger generations when it comes to communicating with other people. Think about all the different texting lingos we use now that shorten words or phrases. How are we to teach our youth the proper way to write, speak and talk to other individuals when it is so much easier to simply send a “LOL” via smartphone? As a writer, this saddens me to see the beauty of the English languish demolished and destroyed and I wonder if we will continue to produce award-winning poets, authors, and essayists now that we are so dependent on a form of virtual language.
Binging and purging myself of social media the last several months has been therapeutic and liberating. Who knew simply not clicking on an icon could bring such peace and happiness? Do I completely stay off? Of course not because I do like connecting with people I don’t get to see on a regular basis. But I am definitely more conscientious of how much time I devote to my favorite social media applications. And I also am greatly aware of how it can and does already affect my children. I am trying to be more consistent with this mindset and not worry so much about who is doing what on a daily basis. Instead, I just need to focus on my family, make time for my friends and really enjoy the beauty life has to offer through relationships that don’t involve a newsfeed.