A study by Dr. Brian Primack et. al in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found an association between feelings of social isolation and higher levels of social media usage. Social media purports to connect us, and yet, despite the constant sharing of Facebook Statuses, Instagram posts, or tweets, it can actually make us feel more alone.
While I am an active user of social media, I also remember fondly what it was like to call up my friends on their land line in the late 90s. Instead of texting, we had hour long phone calls, giggling over the boys we liked and planning our outfits for the school dance. Even email was more personal back then. My friends and I would exchange long emails to each other. Whenever I received an email, it was exciting, because it was usually a message from one of my friends. Today, it seems that 95% of my emails are from companies promoting their brand.
So the question remains. How can we make meaningful connections with one another? While there certainly is value in social media, we need to also recognize that the primary purpose of these platforms is marketing. Facebook’s algorithms would rather show you paid advertisements than posts from your friends. After all, this is how they make their money.
Facebook and other social media are great tools to promote your side hustle or your business, but I would argue that social media is usually not the best option for staying connected with others. So here’s some food for thought:
Instead of “liking” your friend’s Facebook status, why don’t you send her a text and ask for a good time to chat on the phone?
Instead of tweeting a complaint about a local coffee shop, you could politely ask to speak to the manager.
How about setting up a Skype date with a long distance friend, rather than simply commenting on their latest Instagram post?
This is not to say to avoid social media like the plague. After all, Facebook events are a quick and easy way to invite friends to your next potluck dinner. Twitter is very useful for tweeting complaints to airlines and other bigger companies. And sometimes you just want to see some delicious food and cute puppies and kittens on Instagram.
However, I highly recommend that you recognize when social media is helping you, or simply making you feel more isolated. In my own life, I aim to use social media more intentionally and recognize when a phone call or a long chat over coffee would be a better way to connect.
How do you like to connect with friends, family, or acquaintances? Do you find that social media helps or hinders your ability to connect meaningfully with others?