A woman reading SMS messages on her mobile phone while standing on a bike in traffic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One morning last week, I was watching the morning news and happened to see a segment with a therapist talking about social media accounts (Facebook, specifically) and how negative an impact they can have on relationships.
Now, of course, many of you, my faithful readers, read this on Facebook. So I am by no means saying we should give up this platform. But it was enough to get the old thinking juices flowing.
The therapist mentioned that many people are so busy posting updates about what they’re doing – that they’re not really doing anything. Except for updating social media, of course. There were other reasons that he went into for why Facebook can be bad for relationships – like coming across an ex and stirring up old feelings – but it made me start to think about my life and how it’s changed – not since I signed up for Facebook, necessarily, but since I got a smart phone.
Sure, there are people who only use Facebook on a home computer, and that takes them away from their family at home. But then there are others – like me – who almost always check on the phone – at a red light, in line at the grocery store, and of course, when the person you’re with is just boring you to death. Ouch. What happened to letting our minds politely wander? There’s nothing that says, I couldn’t care less what you’re saying than looking down at a phone and getting absorbed in what’s trending right now.
When did we have to start filling every “empty” moment with making sure we know what’s going on in the world of social media? There’s an appropriate time and place for it, sure, but I’m afraid that my kids and their friends will grow up without the luxury of knowing how wonderful so-called boredom can be. I fondly remember times when I had nothing to do, so I went outside and dug for rolly pollies. Or I walked laps around my bedroom, composing a new scene in my current story. Boredom is the birthplace for creativity. Of course, Pinterest is a great place for that, too, but we’re raising a generation of sharers right now. What happens when all the creators are gone?
Facebook and other social media do have their positive uses, of course. I have friends who are primarily members to promote themselves professionally. I do this myself, but I also post pictures of my kids because my out-of-town in-laws like to see what their grandkids are up to. That’s all well and good. But when smart phone and social media usage start replacing time with family, then we’ve somehow mixed up our priorities.
This therapist guy mentioned whole vacations that seem documented to-the-minute on Facebook. I’ve seen any number of them, and while I enjoy seeing some of the fun things my friends are up to, I have wondered: When do they have time to enjoy what they’re doing if they’re on Facebook updating their statuses so much?
And of course, I am guilty of this, too.
Sarah’s Photo Books
Here you see a couple photo books I created of two of our most recent vacations. (Shameless plug: these aren’t cheap, copier paper photo books but high-quality, custom photo paper books made by Fuji, and you can create your own here.)
While I was creating the book on the left – a surprise Disney World trip for my kids – I noticed something that horrified me: I was paying attention to my phone instead of my kids in an embarrassing number of pictures. We were at Disney World, for crying out loud. It’s the happiest place on Earth, yet I was focused on reading updates of what my friends ate for dinner.
Now, granted, having a smart phone when you’re stuck in a two-hour line can be a great distraction. Disney also has a great app that helps you explore the park, so I could say, “Oh yeah, I was just using that.” But that would be a lie.
I’m not saying that smart phones are the devil and we should throw them all out, and neither should we do that with social media. But, as many people have noted, we need to make sure that we don’t get so sucked in to this virtual so-called “social” world that we isolate ourselves from the people that we really want and need to spend time with in the first place.
I think that sometimes, we are so self-centered, so stuck on the idea that we have to absolutely let all of our friends know what cool stuff we’re doing right now that we actually miss out on living in that moment. And what a shame that is.
Now, when I created the second photo book, a great trip with extended family in Washington State, I noticed something else. It was a bit of a letdown at first. You see, I remembered chasing my son and little niece through a mall in Washington. I remember their grins and giggles. I remember going lots of cool places and tasting great, new food. But somehow, I didn’t capture all of these moments photographically. I kind of kicked myself for missing them.
But you know what, I think that’s okay. I remembered a trip to the zoo that Thomas and I took early in our dating years. I made it a point to take a picture of all the wildlife we saw there. Why I thought this was so important, I can’t tell you. A photographer I am not. Any good pictures I’ve ever taken were completely by accident. So when I looked back at all these photos, I realized that I had no idea what I’d been trying to capture, nor could I remember enough of the day at the zoo to even take a wild guess. Why? Well, because I’d been trying so hard to get photos of the fun that I missed the fun altogether. (Thank goodness there weren’t smart phones or Facebook back then, otherwise I really would have made a fool of myself.)
I’m not saying to quit taking photos or to quit posting your events. But what I am saying is that it’s okay if your friends don’t see your kids sitting in a neat little row at the ice cream shop. I promise, your kids will enjoy their ice cream more if you don’t interrupt them.
And for those memories that you missed capturing on your phone or camera – those are likely the memories that will stick with you and your friends and loved ones the longest. Because you were too busy enjoying the moment to worry about how many likes and shares you might get on Facebook.