A recent article in ‘The Week’ magazine summarized a research study from the University of Michigan regarding social-networking sites (Facebook). Looking into this a bit further, I discovered that there are many research studies that have been conducted on the topic. The conclusion of these studies is a bit unnerving. It seems that frequent and continual use of these sites (5 times or more per day) leads to greater feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness and even anger. Whoa! I had no idea about the research but had felt a nagging unease when I saw teenagers and adults waiting in line to check out of a store while simultaneously viewing a social media site or texting a 5 second response to someone. I have wondered how present are they in the moment? Watching a family attempting the annual school clothes shopping trip while half of the members are on their phones and emotionally out there in space somewhere just takes the joy out of the experience.
The good news is that the study also found that when the research subjects used direct face-to-face communication with others it resulted in happier and more cheerful feelings. Remember the idea of staying in the present? Another way of thinking about this is to try to keep our attention where our feet are planted. You, your friends, clients and colleagues are worth the time.
Could it be that PART of the reason that people in the United States rate the highest (9.6%) for depression compared to 14 other countries is that we have begun to substitute actual personal contact with a social media site? Are we choosing to live in the shadow of texting and posting rather than ‘live’ contact?
Granted, there are many additional reasons for depression. The economy, personal challenges, family obligations, the pharma companies telling us that if we feel ‘down’ there is a pill for this or that … are just a few examples. What if part of the solution to unhappiness is the overuse of social media and the lack of face-to-face communication? You can fix that one – no cost, no worry, no problem. Just a slight change in habit. Are you up to it?
We may think we do not have a moment to spare in our lives as it is and to take the time to reconnect with a friend or make a new friend is simply out of the question. It may just seem easier, faster and more ‘with it’ to post a message and wait to see who responds. But now you know the long term effects. We can fix this – one person – one commitment at a time.
Like everything else in life the issue becomes one of awareness and moderation.
Have a great few days!