What Effect is Social Media Having on You?

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This is a topic that has weighed heavily on my mind for a long time now. I have worked in the social media marketing world for a little over 4 years and let me tell you, it all becomes very overwhelming at times. We are constantly inundated with various memes, opinions, articles, news stories, videos…the list goes on and on. The next time you are at a stop light, take a look around you and notice how many people immediately reach for their cell phones, that is, if they’re not already on them while driving.  It seems virtually impossible (pun completely intended) to get away from the constant chaos and drama of the lives that surround us not to mention being inundated with endless information. We can’t seem to go one minute without being plugged in.

I mean come on, first we had desktop computers. Then we needed more portable computers, so along came lap tops. Then that wasn’t good enough, so then we had smart phones. Smart phones were great, but a little too limiting, so we moved back up in size just a smidge to tablets. Everything blips and bleeps and notifies you when Jenny’s drying her hair or Suzy’s dog rolled over…it’s ridiculous. I am just as guilty as anyone else. I use all of my devices for work, household organization stuff, kid’s school stuff…yes, I do enjoy having the technology when I need it, BUT when do we finally put our collective foot down as a society and say enough is enough? As it stands now, when I get an email or Google Hangout request from a client I immediately have at least 4 devices ringing off the hook all at the same time. It’s just borderline stupid.

Aside from the fact that the more we are engaged with our gidgety-gadgets the less we are engaged with actual human beings…(remember what family and friends look like?)…we also need to stop and take a look at the type of content we are ingesting on a daily basis. What are these words and images doing to our self-worth and basic outlook on life?

Every time a news story hits, it’s all over social media. The beheading of our American journalist James Foley, the death of Robin Williams, more political scandals than I care to name…whether you read the news or not, if you are on social media these stories will become a part of your every day content intake.

Then we have memes, which I have to admit, most of the time I love. Some of the verbiage on them can be a bit strong though, and I’ve seen more than one that pokes fun at people with disabilities, those who have weight issues…you name it. Anything seems to be fair game these days. Curse words and inappropriate images also pop up all over social media at alarming rates.

How many stories have you seen on the news in just the past year about young people who have committed suicide due to online bullying? A study done by the Megan Meier Foundation states that “It is estimated that about 2.2 million students experienced cyberbullying in 2011.” It also goes on to say that over 61% of overweight teens have been the victim of embarrassing or harassing posts online. With close to 95% of teens ages 12-17 being online regularly and 80% of them using social media, you bet the content being posted  is having a huge influence on our kids.

On the flip side, living in the age of the internet and social media does have some advantages. Facebook, Twitter, Gooogle+, Instagram, and other platforms are great ways to get information out to a lot of people at once. This comes in quite handy especially if you are a small business owner (like me) who has a limited advertising budget but still needs to get the word out about products and services. Business growth aside, these platforms also help bring people together who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to share thoughts, ideas, life experiences, and other really cool stuff. I’ll admit, lots of the people that I connect with regularly on social media are people I have never met in person before…or are people I haven’t seen in a very long time. Social media allows us to share our lives, albeit from a distance, but the great thing is that when I do see these people in person we just pick up where we left off as if no time has passed. Pretty awesome stuff! I have grown so much due to the relationships I have built through social media as well as the content I choose to fill my day with. Did you catch that…I said CHOOSE.

So once again it all comes down to choice. We ultimately choose how much time we spend on our devices each day, and we choose what content we welcome into our lives. The way I see it, social media is like anything else in life…it’s good in moderation.

That being said, I think we could all benefit from setting some guidelines in regards to social media. One that we have in our house is no devices after dinner. We do make exceptions when necessary, but as a general rule from dinner time until bed time is family time! My husband and I also need time to connect after a long work day. We also don’t allow devices when we are out doing family activities. This is valuable time in the truck to make fun of one another, tell jokes and silly stories, sing those obnoxious songs that drive my husband crazy…you know, make memories. Are we 100% perfect with these rules, um…no…but I can tell you that when we follow the 80/20 rule things work out quite well.

What do you think? Should we be afraid of the “Cyber Zombie Apocalypse” or do you feel you have a pretty good grasp on balancing social media use and real life? Feel free to leave me a comment and let’s continue the conversation!

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