This past May I went backpacking in Allegheny National Forest. I packed everything I needed. Tent. Check. Water bottle. Check. Sleeping bag. Check. Phone. Check??? On the way to the trail me and my buddy stopped at a gas station. While in the bathroom I checked my pockets for my phone and I realized that I had left it in the car. In that moment I also realized that reaching for my phone has now become a reflex action. When there is nothing to do the phone is what to do. When there is silence I pull out my phone. When there are people around I pull out my phone. It has become my automatic response.
Yes like all of us I have contracted that dreadful disease Iphonitis! Constantly looking at my Facebook, Twitter, and email has become the mode of my existence. Luckily I haven’t gotten into any other social media apps or I probably would not get out of bed or get dressed. This is the one addiction that I have no embarrassment about. The reason is because I see everyone else possessed with this same addiction. It has become a part of the landscape. Maybe that’s why this one is probably more fundamentally dangerous to our health and well being. When something is ubiquitous it can easily affect you unawares and self awareness is the first step in transformation. While social media is a good thing; social media addiction is not and here are two reasons why:
1) It gives us the illusion of omnipresence. Through our mobile devices and laptops we get access to people who are thousands of miles away. It’s almost like being there. Almost. We are not there and yet this drive to be “there” consistently takes us to social media and away from the real life we need to be experiencing now. It takes us away from the work that we need to be doing now. It takes us away from the relationships we need to be cultivating now. In short, it takes us away from the most important moment in the world which is….now
2) It gives us the illusion of omniscience. By becoming voyeurs into other people’s lives we are tricked into thinking that we have intimacy (which carries the connotation of knowledge) with them. We may be deceived into thinking that we know people because of what they have posted on their profile. In actuality all we know is their profile. Real intimacy is gained through years of shared laughter, tears, sweat, and even silence. Even in this there is no sure bet that you really know another human being.
Now I try to curb this addiction by limiting my Facebook, Twitter, and email time to twice a day. Then at least I have some kind of limit to how much time I spend on social media but lately I have really slipped on that especially coming home and feeling tired from work. I usually slip into becoming a voyeur into other people’s lives and not really doing what’s needed right now in my own life (like going to bed). It’s a challenge and I don’t foresee it getting easier with the invention of so much technology we will become even more connected/disconnected and I am hoping that the church finds a way to address this aspect of our culture. In the meantime I will strive to live a meaningful life with those around me right now rather than get sucked into the social media matrix.
What do you think? How do you limit social media’s negative effects in your life? Do you think it contributes or takes away from relationships?