As a summer intern, I try to have a can-do attitude. I want to be a yes man here at the Evening Sun. However, my first day on the job I found myself having to say no.
When my boss, editor-in-chief Marc Charisse, asked me to post something on Facebook, I regretfully said: “Sorry Marc, I do not have a Facebook.”
He was surprised that someone so young did not have one of these must-have online profiles. Thus, this column was born.
Even though I have been a year removed from Facebook, my vestigial compulsion to reach for my mobile device has not left me.
Nowadays, I no longer ‘check my Facebook,’ as my sister said during a recent visit. But I still check my device — for e-mails, text messages, Words With Friends, etc.
Whenever there is a lull in activity, a moment of downtime, I reach instinctively for my device. I try to resist this temptation.
My war against what researchers are calling “social media anxiety” was not won when I deactivated my Facebook account.
When I was on social media, I wondered how many people would view my profile, like my post, etc.
In short, I sought approval from my online peers. I wanted the internet to like me. But is it healthy to fulfill our psychological needs via a computer or a smartphone?
Now, I tend to think that the approval that really matters is my own, “To thine own self be true.” That, and I usually run decisions by my close friends and trusted mentors. I value the input of my loved ones more than the input of “friends” on Facebook.
As an adult, I am learning who I am, without second-guessing myself based on a constant stream (or “live-feed”) of external inputs.
Social media feels so adolescent to me. Indeed, three quarters of teens have social networking profiles, compared with less than half of adults.
My primary motive for leaving Facebook was to shift my focus to real people, in the flesh. If people took the time they wasted on shallow online interactions and invested it into genuine, deep connections with real human beings, those face-to-face relationships would make the world a better place.
Political scientists have found that face-to-face interactions increase social trust, which in turn leads to more interactions, more trade, more growth. When we do not see people face to face we are less trusting and more fearful. Robert Putnam talks about this in his book Bowling Alone.
Facebook was dividing my attention between my online self and my real self. I was starting to develop an attention-deficit-disorder, maybe even a split personality.
I was losing my sense of unity, wholeness and wholesomeness.
Life was not meant to be lived in front of a screen, surely.
Researchers are interested in the psychological effects brought on by social networking sites: split personality, dissociation, ADHD. Research published by Elsevier, a scientific journal, found that people who used social networking sites had higher levels of social anxiety than people who interacted mostly face-to-face.
Nevertheless, I hesitated before deactivating my account. Despite the mounting evidence against online networking, I was weary of missing out, of losing touch.
This fear of being out of the loop had its roots in the universal human fear of being alone.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” Blaise Pascal wrote. By letting go of my social networking safety net, I take up the challenge more honestly and courageously.
Rather than helping solve our basic human problems, social media may be making them worse. University of Delaware researcher Scott Caplan has found that problematic use of social media may increase levels of depression, self-esteem, loneliness, and shyness.
Having escaped the trap of social-media-induced malaise, I am learning to grow up, to mature, to be free, to be okay with myself.
Besides, I am getting old, and life is too short. A recent study by E-score found that many people no longer view social media as a fun pastime but rather as a chore. I rid myself of that burden.
I don’t have the energy to keep up with the trends, to follow the feeds, to like the causes. I don’t have what it takes to maintain a hyper awareness 24/7.
I reserve my high-alert status for emergencies, for crises. I hope that I can rise to those occasions — by reserving my heightened awareness for the appropriate time.
This way, my circuit is not fried. I no longer wish to exhaust my mental faculties obsessing over narcissistic proclivities and emotional insecurities. Keeping in touch with people does not need to be a chore.
If my job expects me to post things on Facebook, have I gotten stuck between a rock and a hard place? Does it hurt my professional aspirations not to possess a social networking profile? Am I forced to choose between professional ambition and mental well-being?
These days, career development centers on college campuses across the nation are urging young people entering the workforce to use extreme caution with social media. Notice, too, that these same career developers advise strongly in favor of networking and maintaining a web presence. So which is it? To be (online) or not to be?