The story: A year ago, I take a trip with my friend. As the weekend comes to an end, she complains that it wasn't a good weekend to go because the weather was nice and she could have been somewhere else. I let it slide because she said it once and I took it as an off-handed comment. She then suggests we pick a weekend in Winter. So this year, we take a trip for a weekend and through the entire weekend she is on Facebook and commenting to me about everything else she missing out on doing with others. Yes, my feelings were hurt because this has become a regular statement and no longer off-handed, but it also got me to thinking about some of the problems with social media.
Social media can be great for catching up with friends and family who are out of state. However, when you develop a network and start to use the tool too much, you become caught up in a greedy spiral of wanting what others have or are doing or trying to present yourself in a way to get likes. You aren't living a life authentic to you. You are living your life for others.
I did a bit of research and found on Medical News Today:
"Recent statistics show that 63% of American Facebook users log on to the site daily, while 40% of users log on multiple times a day. "
"According to Dr. Shannon M. Rauch, of Benedictine University at Mesa, AZ, one of the main reasons we use social media is for self-distraction and boredom relief. This behavior can lead to Facebook addiction. In fact, such behavior is so common that researchers have created a psychological scale to measure Facebook addiction - the Berge Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS)."
And according to Dr. Rauch. "We know that many people on social media sites often present idealized versions of their lives, leading others to make upward social comparisons, which can lead to negative emotions."
The last statement resonates with me. My friend spent her entire weekend with me lamenting that she wasn't living the same life as her neighbors and those she watches on social media and thinks of as as having a "superior" standard of living to hers.
Is this a first world problem? No. In countries where they have access to Facebook, people are doing crazier and crazier things to get noticed (i.e. likes). Some countries have had to post signs warning of the danger of selfies. Risking their lives for what? To post on social media and brag about what they are doing? There is something intrinsically wrong with this.
Is social media the problem? No. Social Media is just a tool. "Getting rid of Facebook wouldn’t change the fact that our attention is, more and more frequently, forgetting the path to proper, fulfilling engagement." - from The New Yorker article.
Is there a solution? I don't know, but I can speak from experience and my own feelings. After doing the research, I recognized things in myself that I didn't like when I logged onto Facebook, such as my mood dipping because I reacted to all the negativity in comments, time being lost because Facebook is a time suck, and a generally feeling like I have no privacy on the site.
I find when I deactivate Facebook, I spend less time on social media and more time doing things I enjoy. I also don't feel like I'm some puppet trying to play up to everyone else's expectations. I live my life true to myself. I do things that are meaningful to me, like volunteering my time at the local animal shelter, spending face time with my family, calling loved ones and actually speaking to them instead of posting pithy comments on Facebook, reading a book, taking a hike, and etc.
I don't think deactivating or going to an extreme social media cleanse is the answer, but I do think we need to consciously be in the moment. When we are doing something, enjoy what we are doing without needing to post it to social media or browse the newsfeed. Step away from the electronics and pay attention to your surroundings and those who are in the room with you. If you are an introvert like me, you don't have to be the life of a party, but at least be present, take leave after you feel your "battery" has drained, then take the time to do something that helps you recharge. I can guarantee social media is more draining than invigorating for an introvert.
How does this tie into my photography? I've deactivated the account again, which means the business page is gone. In all honesty, pages don't have much reach and I've had more inquiries from other sources than I have from Facebook. Facebook seemed to have attracted a lot of people looking for free work and free work does not build a business. If I am going to work for free, it will be for a good cause, such as volunteering at local charities and animal shelters.
Making someone feel like they are the last person you want to be with isn't exactly a good way to cultivate and maintain a friendship. So think about the time you spend browsing social media when you are out with friends and family. You may find a better connection and more fulfilment by actually turning off the phone and looking people in the eye.