“Socially connected, mentally disturbed”: this is the average human of today. From the moment we wake up to the very last minute before getting into bed (admit it, even after the middle-of-the-night visit to the bathroom!), most of us check our social media accounts. From 10 year-olds to 60 year-olds, social media is a common language of sorts. While the teens and tweens use it to pitch their virtual footprint, our elders use it to connect with their long-lost friends and relatives. The uses and the purposes are very different. From pictures of a family function to the news of demise, everything is posted on the social sites. However, while social media has become the ultimate platform for staying connected, it is clear that we are becoming increasingly disconnected and anti-social. Here are 12 reasons why parents should watch their social media behaviour:
1 Creates virtual distance: For people living miles apart from each other, the virtual togetherness is a blessing from the Gods of technology but what about the people who live in the same city yet the only connection they share is that of Facebook? To only "like" Ramu uncle's posts on Facebook and not take the time to visit him occasionally doth not make a good family relationship.
2 Creates superficiality: There was a time when people actually called and wished each other on a birthday but now it’s just a lame “HBD” (so many precious seconds saved by not typing the full ‘happy birthday’) on our news feeds. Even condolences are virtual - and one can feel righteous in having discharged one’s duty. That’s how drastically the dynamics of our social behavior has changed, for the worse.
3 Creates disconnect with reality: People might not answer their phones but they sure will check their newsfeeds. According to an estimate, people check their phones and browse their social accounts at least 200 times a day. This is mostly when they are with other people - during dinner, during meetings, during conversations, while playing with their children.
4 Creates stress: Amidst this banter we fail to acknowledge the pressure and stress that this new definition of ‘being social’ has lain upon us. Initially we used social platforms as a means to communicate with our folks while today it has become more about the number of likes and comments under our posts and updates. This has inflicted us with the stress of people-pleasing.
5 Creates identity crisis: Our updates today have less to do with communication and much more to do with public image. The social behavior today is more about conscious management of ourselves as brands online. We are more concerned about other people’s business while constantly in a race to look better on the screen. Be it our pictures, the places we vacation or the eggs we have for breakfast, all these, otherwise private aspects have now become an object of public scrutiny and assessment online. The impact of this constant public scrutiny is so immense that most of us are led to live two separate lives, the perfect one on social media and the not so perfect one, the real one.
6 Creates pressure: The pressure is real. We blame our kids when they cave into peer pressures but who do we blame when we push our kids to outdo themselves just so we can boast about them in front of other parents?
7 Creates dysfunctional and hollow relationships: Social circles have expanded manifold when it comes to social media but at the same time they have also shrunken in reality. While we know about someone’s vacation to Hawaii, we are not aware of the depression he/ she is suffering from. The personal touch - and depth, and meaning - from most of our relationships and friendships has disappeared.
8 Creates depression: According to a 2015 study, there has been a forward rise in the number of cases related to anxiety and depression. About 75% of these cases owe their infliction to social media. The pressure of the perfect birthday cake for their kid or the perfect dinner party is getting to most of the socially connected homemakers. In a bid to out-do others, we are constantly in a race with ourselves regardless of the fact that no two people or no two families can lead the exact same life. The infestation of this is so deep that most of the things we do our first thought of from the perspective of social media and then the actual feasibility of the situation.
9 Creates monstrous online personas: Social media is indeed raising a well-aware generation that is not hesitant in using their right to speech. But using this right and exploiting it are two absolutely distinct things. The fact that there has been a SIGNIFICANT increase in the number of cyberbullying cases reflects how reckless people have become with their opinions. The main question is how can someone be so comfortable with leaving obscene comments under someone else’s posts? Simple, the undue advantage of being behind a screen. Further adding to this issue is the question of authenticity. Making fake profiles is very simple. Taking this as a leverage some people use these fake accounts to threaten, intimidate and even run the rumor mill without being traced.
10 Creating addictions: Furthermore, with the increase of social media involvement comes the part where an individual ends up being a SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICT. Teenagers are the most apt example of this. From their breakfast to their pajamas, everything is shared on social sites. It not even about posting about oneself, it has become a means of keeping tabs on the lives of their other friends. An average teenager spends approximately 13 hours browsing social media. if that doesn’t scream “ADDICTION” then I don’t know what will.
11 Creating security risks: With people-pleasing comes the question of likes and comments. The pictures we post are viewed by everyone on our friends-list. People like and comment and sometimes even share our posts. What we forget is, the people on everyone’s friends-list are not the same; never the same. So while you think you just posted about your kid's first day at school to your immediate contacts, a third party too knows about it. The dangers of an absolute stranger knowing your whereabouts are real and radical.
12 Creating disengagement with real life: Even when people meet in real life, their main concern is posting an update about this rendezvous rather than actually spending quality time with each other. Remember the last time you were updating Facebook during vacation? This is the adversity of social life on the go.
What does this have to do with children, you ask? Parents are the primary role models for kids. Children watch and learn how parents interact with technology - they can sense addiction and older children can also take a cue from your use of technology. Before we preach to the younger generation, we must first inculcate responsible online behaviour ourselves. We need to toe the fine line beyond which the advantages of social media turn into serious deficits. This fine line is ‘intelligent use’. Like salt is only used to season food and not consumed by the spoonful, social media should only be the spicy seasoning, not the main course of our life!