Every so often I ask myself:
Should I just disconnect from Facebook?
Facebook can be annoying at times, if you know what I mean.
Drawbacks of Facebook
Do you relate to these common complaints about how Facebook or any social media can make you feel?
- That your own life is boring
- That you’re not doing enough good for other people
- That you’re overwhelmed by the news worldwide
- That you have less friends than other people
- That you can’t be your real self
- That you’re helpless to solve your friends’ problems/sicknesses/complaints
- That you’re left out of fun things
- That your pictures aren’t getting enough likes
- That you’re overloaded with information/advertising/opinions
- That you should or shouldn’t have posted this or that
- That you’re wasting too much time online
But for those of us who didn’t grow up having to make anything Facebook-official or host a Pinterest-perfect party, we can (sort of) put these things into perspective when they grow unwieldly.
But our kids?
Young People on Social Media
I recently finished previewing Donna Freitas’ book on how social media is driving young people. She wrote The Happiness Effect (not yet released) after compiling research from her interviews with college students.
The news is sobering indeed.
On the plus side, she that we don’t have as much to worry about as the press might lead us to believe:
“I feel confident in saying that the social media world is a far less scary place overall than the press would have us believe, and that the young adults with whom I spoke are as smart and thoughtful as ever.”
But on the negative side, her research revealed many large problems anyway, including this main one:
“One unifying and central theme emerged as the most pressing social media issue students face: The importance of appearing happy.”
The students shared story after story about how they manage their online images.
- How their families would freak out if they post anything sad.
- How they freak out themselves if their posts don’t get enough attention.
- How they worry about future employers looking at their timelines.
- How the most vulnerable online take the hardest hits.
- How they think they have to be available at all times.
“I ask what seems like an obvious question: Why keep posting if you can’t really be honest? Cherese laughs at my naiveté.
If she doesn’t keep posting things, she explains, then people also become concerned. Posting, in general, is like ‘a public appearance,’ she says. You have to pop up every once in a while to prove you are okay.”
~ * ~
“I ask Brandy why she thinks the online version of the self isn’t a ‘true’ version. ‘Because it’s not real,’ she answers simply. And here we come back around—as all my interviews seem to do—to the issue of appearing happy.”
~ * ~
“The requirement to appear happy all the time is hard to fulfill when you are going through a tough time. A painful breakup is also a reason some people quit their social media accounts for a while—if not permanently—simply so they don’t have to broadcast the process of separation.”
Yes to Phones
But despite all the problems, the kids don’t want to give up their phones.
Neither do I. I don’t want to go back to a time when smartphones weren’t around.
A better solution is to improve how we manage our smartphones. Several of the college students are already learning by trial and error.
“Yet the children coming up are mapping out their lives and experiences in this unbelievably new sphere regardless of its unknowns, because it is where our world is headed, and where their lives have begun. And soon, growing up online will be all anyone knows.
But this generation is the test generation, the one that faces working out all the kinks and complications, while we—their parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, professors, admissions officers, bosses, and future employers—are likewise faced with helping them through this massive cultural shift as best we can.”
Freitas reminds my generation that photo albums were our highlight reels. We only included the pictures we wanted and only showed them to people who were closest to us. It didn’t mean we were a fraud for not including the close-eyed photos nor that we were snobbish for not showing the whole world.
Can we help young adults understand similar boundaries in the digital world? That they don’t have to hide their true feelings, but that they also aren’t obligated to post every (or any!) feeling they have online?
Establishing healthy boundaries is something we all can help each other do.
- Faculty often ban technological devices in their classrooms.
- Parents ask cellphones to be turned off during certain hours.
- Chick-fil-A gives free ice cream for not using your phone while eating.
My daughter Jenna and I ate at Chick-fil-A last night and saw the cell phone coops and the Family Challenge. (But I failed to see it until after I’d already checked my email. Oops.)
Obviously those of us at any age need periodic fasting from our devices, even if it’s only while we share a meal.
I’ll likely continue to have a love/hate relationship with social media.
But for now, I’m staying on because the good outweighs the bad.
- I get to see pictures of my nieces and nephews who live far away.
- I hear who is engaged and who is having babies.
- I pick up prayer requests for those with illness or heartaches.
- I see where God is working in friends’ lives.
- I get encouraged to memorize scripture, to help in my community, and to see what my sisters are bringing to the next family meal.
Social media isn’t going away. Let’s learn to use it wisely so we don’t get used by it. Use it to encourage, to support, and to better love and be loved.
May God bless Facebook.
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Which social media is your favorite? When do you disconnect? Please share your thoughts on social media in the comments.
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- Six Books I Recommend – June 2016
- On the Blog – June 2016