Opinion: Online Connection Has Left Us Disconnected

Young Americans are now spending up to nine hours each day consuming online media. Studies have found that this can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and depression. Limiting screen time each day can help connect us back to the material world. (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)

Today’s world is plagued with smartphones, tablets and laptops. Although these devices make it possible for humans to connect with others on national and global levels, they have also disconnected many of us from the reality that surrounds us each day.

The heart of the online world for most people is social media. Facebook has over three billion users, almost half of the world’s population. According to a study done by Common Sense Media, young adults now spend around nine hours a day consuming media, much of which is spent on various social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.

Scrolling through endless Tweets, statuses, pictures and messages can take up most of a person’s free time. In fact, it has become so overwhelming for some people that a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology suggests that limiting time on social media will decrease feelings of depression and loneliness.

These feelings of depression and loneliness stems from impractical posts that scatter social media. Images of perfect vacations and ideal body types can leave people with feelings of jealousness and anxiety as they try to chase those unrealistic perfections.

I am an avid social media user, so I decided to undergo the brave process of taking a step away from all of the social media mayhem for a week. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook vanished from my home screen in a few swift taps. I was curious to see if my life would feel healthier and more connected to reality by just deleting some apps off my phone.

Little did I know, a week of separating myself from the digital world would change my perspective on technology. The week allowed me to lift up my head and get a better glimpse of all of the little things the world has to offer that we so often miss when our eyes are glued to a screen.

I quickly noticed the amount of free time I now had available. Instead of spending the first half hour of each day checking all of the updates that occurred overnight, I was able to get out of bed, quickly grab breakfast and finish some homework for the next day.

Although I had so much free time, I found myself constantly opening up my phone to go check my social media platforms for the first few days. This was a huge adjustment as I had to find other productive uses of time or run the risk of just sitting somewhere, staring into space.

The hardest part of my decision was the amount of text messages I received from friends begging me to go look at the funny posts or videos they had sent me. It made me feel like I was missing out on another side of society that I would never get back.

The most rewarding part of this process were the sincere chats that I was able to have with others. Each meal that was usually filled with endless sifting of social media posts that I had missed during class was now filled with meaningful conversations with friends.

All of this gave me a renewed freshness in life. I felt more connected with the people that surrounded me and appreciated the world more after only one week away from social media. Although missing out on viral videos and posts made me feel out of the loop, was it as bad as never feeling truly fulfilled in life as I had felt on social media?

As scientists ponder if social media addiction should be considered a disease, the upsides of social media cannot be overlooked. Connecting thoughts, ideas and beliefs can bring about social change and give those without a voice, a voice.

So how can you bring about change on social media? Limiting screen time and spending quality face-to-face time with friends and families goes a long way. Instead of using social media as a mask for your life, utilize these positive features to help connect the world once again.

It ultimately doesn’t matter what a friend is doing halfway across the world on vacation. What matters is what you’re doing now, in this moment, with the people whom you love.

About Maclean Robertson 10 Articles
Mac Robertson is a native of Zeeland, Michigan. You can find him at swim practice from the break of dawn until the sun sets. When he is not swimming, he enjoys spending his time playing FIFA or watching college basketball.

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