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social networking: is it time to switch off?

Where do we draw the line when it comes to social media? In the past few years, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a person under the age of 30 who doesn’t have at least one social media account. Tales of these bizarre creatures seem to circulate amongst my friends in hushed voices: ‘…and he doesn’t even have a Facebook account.’

I guess that in 2012, it seems slightly odd to the majority of us that some people don’t “do” social media. How do you get invited to parties without Facebook? How do share your witty Masterchef commentary without Twitter? How do you show everyone what you had for breakfast without putting a quirky filter on it and sharing it on Instagram? It almost feels like we have become one with our smartphones and social media, and nobody can really remember what life was like before it.

Confession time: I am a social media addict. I have a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest. I also have a blog. Then there are even more that I have signed up to and later forgotten about. My life has become inextricably linked with the social media I use, and if I stopped using it I’d have no idea what to do with all the free time I would suddenly have. My boyfriend has become accustomed to my telling him he can’t eat his meal before I take a photo of it for Instagram, and I have spent many hours planning out a future wedding and dream home on Pinterest.

It’s not like it’s just me, either. A friend recently posted her ultrasound pictures on Facebook for everyone to see, and these days I find out when people get engaged or break up through their Twitter updates. When my technologically ignorant father got a Facebook account and a smartphone, I started to wonder about where we’re actually headed with this ever-increasing presence of social media. Do we really need this constant connection with the outside world? It seems that by being able to contact friends and family and have them respond 24/7, no one is actually talking anymore.

Sometimes when I’m out with my friends, it feels like every two seconds someone is whipping out their phone to take a photo, or check their email, or tweet about what they’re doing. I’m guilty of this too. Our generation has grown up in this world and it’s not something that’s easy to escape. It feels like it’s not really enough to just go out and have a good time—we need to have proof of it. So we check in on Facebook, and tweet about how awesome our friends are, and somewhere along the line this constant need to share became almost as important as actually spending time with our family and friends.

So maybe it’s time we all put away our iPhones and step back for a moment. It’s not as if we can go back to the lives we had pre-social networking, but maybe we can try to stop staring at our screens so much and just experience life like we used to. You know, back when conversations with friends were lengthy and meaningful, not restricted to 140 characters. Try savouring the first bite of your hard-earned pizza without taking a photo of it beforehand. Buy a new pair of pants without asking Twitter for opinions first. Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while and actually talk to them. Better yet, write them a letter. After you Facebook them to find out their address, that is.

By Jennifer Brown

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3 thoughts on “social networking: is it time to switch off?

  1. I sent a message to a friend on facebook to get her address to send her a letter the other day … it didn’t feel weird then, but it feels weirdly ordained now.
    There seem to be a number of call outs from journalists lately for people who feel detrimentally attached to social media – finding a balance can be tricky and is perhaps something we are learning as we go. Your comment about becoming one with smartphones reminds me of William Gibson and his cyberpunk world where virtual reality is indistinguishable from reality.
    Thanks for the article. interesting and timely and witty to boot.

  2. I’m all over social media for publicity. I have written and self-published three novels and I started the social media path three years before even being published, all in preparation for it. I’m only on in the mornings and on my own terms.

    I don’t own a phone so I’m not all over Instagram even though I joined to follow the people I follow on blogs and Facebook.

    If I did have an iPhone, which I am desperate to get, then I’d limit myself to before/after meals, things that don’t involve stupidity and between 9 and 5 each day. I believe in taking time out/off, and keeping all social media to work hours.

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