You can run but you can't hide from social media. Nothing is essentially private anymore. Businesses and relationships are formed and reinforce through contact via social media. We make ourselves relevant through status updates and are reaffirmed through the number of "likes" associated with our status. Do more "likes" and responses to your comments mean that people really like you or are we just a bunch of attention seeking "try hards" hoping to mimic the feeling of what it might feel like to be the popular kid in school?
We all have at least one person on our Facebook list that is committed to their update status. This person updates you on their heartbreak, what they eat, when they sleep, their current location and every constant thought. If you're not into reading statuses, no problem. Facebook has now equipped you with the ability to visually show people every moment of your life through photo diaries. Meanwhile on Twitter today, these are some tweets I found: "Off to the airport," "just wanna make some noise" and "haha." These thought provoking utterances are meant to attract attention and get a response. Updates like these may be irrelevant but seem to be working because even though they are potentially annoying, we continue to read.
Researchers have been focusing heavily on social media effects and have shown that people who are frequently on Facebook are also less happy. This is because we often compare ourselves to others online. Constant exposure to pictures where others appear happy stimulates a comparison effect that often leaves us feeling like we're shortchanged. This shifts our expectations into overdrive and prompts questions like what if I was just a little thinner, wealthier, happier or smarter? Relationship satisfaction also decreases as time spent on Facebook increases because it provides you with easy excess to other potential interests that may seem enticing from the outside. This takes away good psychological real estate that could otherwise be invested in enriching what you have.
The top five reasons people "unfollow" others on social media are: too much tweeting, too self focused (the me, me, me and oh yes me), too sales driven, depressing tweets and too many public displays of affection. The truth is we reach out to others through social media and hope that people will validate what we think, do or say. We seek support through services that are easily accessible to others while paradoxically providing a sense of anonymity as we hide behind our computers. Communities are now built online, and being part of social media allows us to be part of a community. This quasi form of connection can also be equally isolating and increases the amount of contact needed from others online to fulfill a sense of belonging compared to contact in person.
It is now considered normal to communicate online through texting, Facebook and Twitter. We lose what we don't use and the consequences of social media have left us less equipped in communicating with others in real life. We even talk less on the phone and spend more time on the Internet, Playstations and Facebook. We have taken a back seat to our own lives watching it pass us by rather than living it. If we are unable to communicate effectively with each other in person, the likelihood of a successful relationship is even further away. The fact that technology is integrated into just about everything we do is a part of living in today's world. Striving for balance and reflecting on how much of our online selves we are sharing will allow for healthy growth. Put your technology away for a day and enjoy going outside. By the end of the day, you may be surprised by how relevant you are to those who matter.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to email@example.com. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.