The lure of social media is a dangerous one, sucking our life away from us moment by moment as we scroll and lurk in an insidious wasteland. According to the phone usage app, Moment, people spend an average of 4 hours a day on their phones. This doesn’t include TV’s or computers. When time is so limited in life, it’s absurd that we waste so much of it staring at a screen.
I’m guilty of it, too, but I’m working on defeating that weak part of me that’s lured in. I wasn’t even aware of it until my wife pointed it out to me. It’s become a reflex. I sit down, open my phone, and immediately go to Instagram. I tried moving my social media apps to their own folder to add that extra second of thought, but as we know that the brain makes easier the things we repeatedly do by devoting brain cells to the task, soon enough it was automatic and mindless. The thing I am most truly ashamed to admit is that when I am with my children, I am often on my phone. One time, my youngest was trying to talk to me and I didn’t hear him, so he ran up and scolded me, saying “Daddy, put down your phone!”. That has stuck with me. Is it possible that social media has made me less of a father? Less of a husband? Yes. But not anymore. At least, I’m trying to not let this happen anymore.
The problem is that social media usage is so easy to justify. I’m looking for inspiration or ideas. I feel like the next big idea is just one post away. It controls me, and I don’t like that, so I’m trying to kick the habit for good. I’m not going to banish social media from my life, but just scale back on the mindless scrolling. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there, wasted forever. So much can be achieved in 10 minutes, and it’s a shame to let those opportunities slip away.
Aside from wasting your time, using social media excessively has other negative effects on us.
Countless studies have proven that our cell phones are making us miserable. In addition, according to Jean Twenge, Ph.D, a psychology professor from San Diego State, two hours a day is enough to have adverse affects on teenager’s happiness. And further, Men’s Health reports that there is a 35% increase in risk of suicide for eighth graders who use their devices more than three hours a day.
Why is this? I’m not an expert, but my guess is that spending so much time staring at a screen declines physical health, to start. In general, western culture has us failing to meet our potential as a species. We are meant to use our bodies, and instead we sit for almost the entirety of our waking hours, and sleep for the rest. Lack of vitamin D, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and other factors play a role, too. This all declines mental health, and when you pair that with social media, it’s a disaster–especially for the vulnerable minds of our developing youth. Self-esteem crumbles under the carefully curated highlight reel of their friends’ (and celebrity) feeds. It’s not real.
Another issue is the dreaded FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Facebook and Instagram have become the center of the world. If you’re not connected, you’re left out. It’s so easy that most people forget to communicate in other ways. It’s hard to know how to handle this, except to determine how much you really care about what is going on in other people’s lives. Unless they are close family or friends, does it really matter? Would you sacrifice ten minutes of your life that could be used to do something productive to read about your 4th cousin’s friend’s new job, or that person you sort of knew in high school post a picture of their new car? This does not matter. You living an unfulfilled life does. The important news, truly important, will find it’s way to you eventually.
Our mental and physical health declines from overuse of our cell phones, but even more so when used for social media. So much life is wasted when we should be focusing on bettering ourselves and our relationships through our daily work, whatever that means to you. And more importantly, we should be spending more time fully engaged with our children, our spouses, our friends. Or maybe just ourselves.
Humanity suffers in the age of hyper-connectivity. We are a species of incredible potential yearning to be fulfilled. Men crave adventure and a chance to fight and roam and prove themselves. We discover ourselves as men only in the arena. This will not happen scrolling through the digital wasteland. Put the phone down and get out there. Find your arena.