Using Social Media the RIGHT Way
Posted by Gina
Last night, my husband and I were out eating dinner before a concert we were attending. My husband was on his phone (as always). I’m giving him the stink-eye, he looks up at me, then back down at his phone – completely ignoring my blatant irritation at his phone use. In a fit of rage, I reach across the table and grab the phone away, hiding it beside me, much as a mother might have to do with an unruly child.
This story is fairly typical of many of my interactions with, not only my husband, but many of my friends and family as well. I am one who avidly utilizes the internet and my phone, but I have learned that there is a time and place for it. Sitting at dinner with your spouse or friend is not the time for it. When someone is trying to carry on a conversation with you, that is not the time for it. It has become an endless frustration that so many people seem unable to look away from their devices and connect with the real world – and I’m sure I am guilty of it as well. It can be hard to separate yourself from the nagging urge to check your texts/Facebook/email. I have experienced it as well, but much like Howard Rheingold (2012) outlines in “Net Smart” I have learned to focus my attention when necessary.
I am a huge advocate for the social abilities that technology has made possible. As someone who suffers from (at times debilitating) depression and social anxiety, the ability to “connect” while not being physically close to someone is something that has helped me tremendously. Additionally, there is such support out there (on the web) for people who suffer similar challenges, the communities that the internet and social media make possible can be endlessly beneficial. However, as Rheingold eloquently put it, “the same activity can be a lifeline for one person and a distracting compulsion to others” (2012, p. 8). This entirely sums up the differences in the evolution of use of social media between my husband and myself.
As a young adult I, like many other young adults, thought myself to be exceedingly important and felt the urge to post even the most mundane and uninteresting things to social media. As I learned to navigate these media, I began to see their propensity for good as well as their pitfalls. That was when I began to change the way I used such technologies, creating communities of trust and comfort while eliminating the more banal and unimportant posts from my profiles. This has helped me immensely in building a sense of belonging and allowing me to more easily cope with my circumstances.
My husband has a long history of becoming addicted to video-games, to the detriment of his academic and professional life at times. This is why, when he spends our dinner staring at his phone, I get afraid that it will become a compulsion he will not be able to stop. For the two of us, our technology and its social affordances creates two very different worlds.
This is why I think that Rheingold’s idea of “controlling attention” is so vital. While technology and social media can be extremely beneficial in connecting with others and creating/maintaining communities, if let run wild, they can be distractions that keep us from living our lives in the moment.
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