2016 is drawing to a close, and as it nears its end, I realize that I’ve probably spent more time online, whether on social media, on my cell phone, or doing one of many homework assignments, than I have spent face to face with family, Sigma Alpha sisters, or friends from work and other social groups. Even when I do have the opportunity to grab a cup of coffee with my boyfriend or my roommates, the temptation to check my phone is constantly itching at the back of my mind, and I am certain that they feel the exact same way. Why do we find memes or news stories or YouTube videos more engaging than the thoughts in the minds of the people closest to us? No wonder many people report feeling isolated, lonely, and envious. Also, it is far too easy to see glamorous photos of an acquaintance’s glamourous Hawaii vacation or a friend’s European semester abroad and feel jealousy and discontent, or to get a Snapchat of the squad hanging out without you and feel betrayal and anger. We think we are connected, but in reality, we are far from having committed, intimate relationships with others.
Weirdly, these feelings didn’t exist in the same context in the generations before us. They are manufactured by the media we consume and by the way we choose to relate to each other. As college students, we have a thousand demands on our time, our emotions, and our attention. Let’s not let external distractions crowd out the things that really matter. We need to realize that behind Instagram profiles and Twitter handles reside real people, with real joys and real problems. Let’s get to know each other before we hide ourselves behind webpages and social media bios.
My intent is not to guilt anyone to give up social media, delete their Facebook account, or smash their smartphone with a hammer. Rather, I suggest we take a leaf out of an old book and spend more time getting to know one another without the distraction of social media. Yes, Facebook makes it easier to learn facts about another human being, but does it really bring us closer together?
While I don’t think technology or social media is inherently evil or a total waste of time, I think that most people, absolutely including myself, could be more intentional about the time they spend on Facebook or checking emails. I constantly complain about never having the time to read a book, but if I could refrain from checking Facebook multiple times a day and cut that number down to 1 or 2, I would gain about 30-45 minutes all told. Plenty of time to read a few pages, or to text a friend, or to call my mom. (Well, maybe I need a few more minutes than that to call my mom…)
I plan to move my iPhone out of my room at night, figure out how to work my old-fashioned alarm clock, and spend less time updating (and definitely mindlessly scrolling) through social media. I hope I can stick to this goal, spend more time writing and laughing and cultivating my mind, as well as more time building relationships with the people around me. As sisters in agriculture, we need to stay rooted in our friendships and family relationships; they are some of the most meaningful gifts we will ever receive.