Offline 3-dimensional relationships are whole grains.
Like sugar, social media can add some sweetness to your life. But it’s something to use carefully, with discretion.
Like sugar, it’s an easy fix. Easy to accumulate hundreds of friends. Easy to look and sound your best. Easy to feel like you’re smart and sophisticated. Easy to connect.
And like sugar, too much can rot your relationships and destroy your insides. Here’s what I mean . . .
- When’s the last time you really examined your feelings?
- When’s the last time you thought your own thoughts?
- When’s the last time you sat through a difficult conversation – or a boring one – and didn’t break away to check Facebook?
- When’s the last time you grappled with your frustration, embarrassment, unhappiness, anger . . . kept grappling with it . . . grappled with it some more . . . and figured out what to do about it? . . . And then did something . . . in this world. (No, posting on Facebook doesn’t count!)
Even worse, it’s an addictive, hard-to-curb, sweet-tooth habit, once you get started.
Eat too much of it and you won’t want anything else. You’ll crave it when you’re not getting it.
Without it, your mood sinks to an all-time low and nothing can help buoy your feelings except getting back on Facebook or Twitter.
And just to be clear, I’m not saying people you meet on social media aren’t real (or at least, most of them). But all you get is a snippet of their life. You get a few nice photos and their best (well-edited) thoughts and observations. Certainly there are real people behind these persona’s you’re connecting with on social media.
But you’re not connecting with the real person. Social media is pretty much the sugar-coated stuff.
Real physical people, on the other hand, are just like whole grains.
Yep, they take longer to digest. It takes a while for trust to develop . . .
Because – like whole grains – you’re not just getting the easy sweet stuff.
- You have to take in how they look (for real), their body language (often awkward or maybe not fully focused on you), and yes, even their smell.
- And you have to work hard too! You have to watch what you say – you can’t edit it. You have to watch how you look and behave. (Yes, we don’t all look like those glam shots on Facebook every day and every hour.) Like when you eat whole grains, you have to use all your body’s abilities to digest – enzymes, stomach acids, muscles, probiotic bacteria and all.
Not like with sugar (or social media) where it just goes straight to your bloodstream. No work at all.
But all that work that goes into building relationships with real people – just like the vitamins and fiber in brown rice and whole wheat – makes your life strong, rich and nourished beyond belief.
Why am I pointing this out?
Because we’re destroying our lives with too much sugar. We’re heading towards heart disease, diabetes and cancer of the soul.
Our children don’t know how to relate.
Our children are jealous of our phones.
Our families are falling apart.
We’re all feeling more unhappy, depressed and . . .
Here are some of the ominous studies and statistics:
- The groundbreaking 2010 AARP survey on loneliness found that the number of people who feel they have no one to confide in or discuss important matters with has more than doubled – from 10% in 1985 to 24% in 2004.
- A majority of people who said they were lonely in this survey agreed with the statement “I have fewer deep connections now that I keep in touch with people using the Internet.”
- Several studies have linked increasing divorce rates to increasing use of Facebook. A recent study showed that people who used Facebook the most were most likely to have conflicts in their romantic lives.
I’ve written a bit about how indiscriminate activity in our online world is undermining our offline world here:
But you don’t need those. Because you know what’s going on.
You’ve watched your children. You’ve watched yourself.
I use social media extensively for my businesses. It’s an invaluable tool for finding resources . . . and finding people who can help you with a particular problem or inspire you to do more.
I’ve also been able to reach so many people like you who need the unique resources we create. I’m glad we can all use this tool strategically to make our lives better.
But it’s only a tool – one that needs to be used wisely.
I can feel its seduction when I’m down or hitting a wall with work. So – just like when I work with a chainsaw – I need to remind myself how much damage this can do if I don’t use it properly.
So here are some hints:
- Acknowledge its sugary seduction, its potential to hook you. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, the first thing we need to do is acknowledge how out of control we can get with it. Yes, it is addictive. Studies show people with internet addiction have abnormal patterns of white matter in their brains similar to cocaine, heroin and meth addicts. College kids denied access to social media go through symptoms similar to withdrawal – jitteriness, anxiousness and irritability.
- You can make connections on social media for specific purposes. But always remind yourself friendship is much more complicated and can never be created digitally. A beginning, perhaps, but never the real thing.
- Limit your time. When I put tips on Facebook and Twitter, I’ll often add #godo to them. This is a reminder to take that tip or inspiration, get off your screen and go do something for real in the real world with it.
- Reflect. I need to remind myself to do this more, too. Look back at how you interacted on social media, what you were busy doing and how you were using your time? Were you satisfying emotional needs or escaping reality? Were you doing something purposefully? Did you lose track of time?
As adults we have a few safety checks. Because we didn’t grow up with social media. For better or for worse, we all have a few decades of history of interacting with real flesh and blood people.
Our children are much more vulnerable. Childhood is when you learn to manage your emotions. It’s when we learn how to navigate the sophisticated interactions that come with being part of a culture and community. It’s where we use the imagination to develop our skills for life and the real world. Not to avoid it.
When children get lost on phones and Twitter, they are literally lost.
So here are a few tips for you parents. And just to be clear, I’m not going the route of suggesting you collect all phones before a playdate or keep phones out of the bedroom. I’m going a few steps further based on what’s worked for us:
- Don’t get your child a phone unless they absolutely need one. And they’re old enough to follow rules about its use and exercise some discretion. We didn’t get our daughter a phone until she went to high school. And she still uses it very minimally and not for social media. Truth is, often she forgets it at home when she goes out. We’ve made a point of telling her, if you want to see your friends, call them on the (family) phone or have them come over. No texting needed.
- Don’t allow your child on Facebook, Twitter or any new emerging social spot. Really. Again, we only allowed our daughter on FB because her soccer coach was using it to communicate with the team. But we keep close tabs and make sure she’s not using it to post. She doesn’t need it. Really. It’s been the subject of a few heated discussions. But recently she’s acknowledged how much she appreciates not getting lost on social media and having time for her own thoughts, to work on her drawing, etc. And to develop her sense of self in contrast to what she sees around her with her peers who can’t stop talking about hashtags.
- Talk to them about the ramifications of online posting and activity. We have explained to both our children that once you post something online, it goes out there and you can never retrieve it. This may not seem like a big deal right now. But you may regret it later when you’re building a serious relationship or trying to get a job you really want to land.
- Model it. My husband and I have one cell phone we share . . . and often forget when we go out. I admit, I have to watch myself in how much time I spend online. Even if I say it’s for work, it’s easy to get drawn into discussions and interactions online that, frankly, aren’t contributing to my business and pulling me away from family time. Sugar.
- Make activity a central part of your family life. As I’ve noted before, family fitness isn’t just about fitness. It’s about spending time together, developing a healthy way to manage stress and other emotional turmoil. And it’s one of the best means to build self-esteem.
But most importantly, create a home life where your children know they are important and loved and where their emotional needs are met. Create a home life where they get the support and guidance they need to take on the challenges of the world.
Create a family life that nourishes your children and you like wholesome whole foods – not the sugar-coated, seductive world of social media. Make a choice to live in a world that takes a lot of chewing and digestion. And coach your children to build their lives and relationships solidly in this complicated, sometimes awkward and frustrating, but undeniably nutritious world.
To do this takes not just quality time, but quantity time. Time you can’t afford to waste online.
We’re finally coming around to seeing the damage soda and desserts do to our bodies. Now we need to look at how the sugar-coated reality we’re creating on social media is destroying our relationships . . . our lives . . . and our sense of self.
Got some thoughts on this? I’d love to hear your perspective. Please share below.
Edmondson, B. All The Lonely People. AARP Magazine, 2010. http://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/transitions/info-09-2010/all_the_lonely_people.4.html
Jaslow, R. Internet Addiction Changes Brain Similar To Cocaine. CBS News, 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57357895-10391704/internet-addiction-changes-brain-similar-to-cocaine-study/
Laster, J. Students Denied Social Media Go Through Withdrawal. Chronicle of Higher Education, 2010. http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/students-denied-social-media-go-through-withdrawal/23561
Facebook, Divorce Linked In New Study. Huffington Post, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/facebook-divorce-linked-i_n_3399727.html