Whether it is for business or pleasure, our inter-connected world makes it nearly impossible for us to be disconnected from social media.
The information that social media provides has changed how quickly and how often we receive very critical news. We may learn of a world history event before a major cable network reports it. We can support grassroots campaigns and the arts; a once far- removed family member or classmate becomes a daily virtual companion.
But social media can also be an endless vortex of ego, unhealthy arguments and inane thoughts. It can be the biggest distraction in your life if you let it, and a lot of people are doing just that.
According to a study by Experian Marketing Services, Americans spend an average of 16 minutes of every hour on social media and 27% of their time online time on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The study also found 9 minutes of every hour are spent on entertainment sites and 3 minutes online shopping. Add these and half of our time each hour is spent online, buried in non-productive distractions.
Furthermore, people spend two times more time on Facebook than they do exercising, the average college student spends more time on social media sites than studying, and workers are interrupted every 10.5 minutes by instant messages and tweets.
If you were to log how many hours you spend online, what would that number look like, and which of those hours would you consider critical to your business and self-development? We are a society that has become increasingly interested in living vicariously through others lives instead of our own. We passively complain about our government, bills and latest reality show stereotype by flexing our fingers on keyboards. How long will this suffice for us?
Each time I see nonsensical hashtags, "selfie" photos, the daily plethora of memes and daily analysis of celebrity headlines and reality shows, I wonder, how many of us might have been the next bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Malcolm X, or simply, our highest, most actualized selves, without the distraction of social media? How many of us may have finished that book or start-up idea we've been toying with for the past five years, spent more time appreciating the moment, or revering the simple act of communicating and forgiving each other, face-to-face?
I am no stranger to social media's gravitational pull. I have sworn to close all my accounts on more than one occasion, only later to cite needing to brand myself and stay on top of the daily news as the reason I never really fulfilled my promise. And in the end, all I really find myself doing is gazing at photos of food, other people, headlines and witty status updates, until this cycle begins again the next day. This is not to say that social media has no value. I see the power in what social media brings to individual brands, marketing and even communication that has sparked revolutions around the world.
But, the truth is, I miss the times when a phone call led to a real life interaction, when it was possible to watch a television show without a second by second analysis on Twitter, when a stranger's online comments didn't rile folks up more than the injustices going on in our community every day and I didn't feel the need to log on to one of my accounts to actually feel like I was a part of the world. I miss the community that being social– without media– brought about. One may argue that it is nearly impossible to exist in this society without social media. While that may be true, it should not be impossible to put our lives and productivity first, even if just for a few hours. We owe that to our future legacies and ourselves.