By Zeus Sumra
Published: September 27th, 2017
Maybe it’s been those amusing memes of Kermit the Frog sipping tea (the face I make when…), those heartwarming cat videos on YouTube, or the allure of being a mini-celebrity to your own circle on Snapchat; either way, social media has definitely succeeded in grasping every ounce of our attention. What does this leave us with? Increasingly high rates of procrastination? Or more successful networking opportunities and effective ways of communicating with each other? The not-so-internet-savvy grandmother argues one while your Computer Science professor argues another. Social media has come about with its pros and cons making it harder to decipher which side to lean on. But what if we didn’t have to make the choice? What if there was a way that we could enjoy all the benefits (the laughter of those awful GIFs and making connections with people in our career field) of this new technological wave in a responsible manner?
Nothing marked the beginning of this new century more than social media sites and applications such as Myspace and Facebook. Some have come and Gone with the Wind, while others have endured the test of time, but our attention has remained attune to the beat of their drums leaving chemistry homework untouched, history papers forsaken, and our friend across the coffee table abandoned (Richard, no cellphones at the table please!). If that wasn’t enough to start the century with a bang, Steve Jobs revolutionized the game with the iPhone (Mark Zuckerberg should be thankful ten times over, I think). Our Instagram selfies and Facebook live videos became a home button away (well not anymore with the iPhone X, but you get my point). Nothing comes without criticism, and soon enough books that bashed social media for its negative effects flooded the Amazon market and every other TED Talk as well.
But were we too quick to judge? Did we give Twitter and Myspace (does that still exist?) a fair chance? Maybe not! We have also been able to enjoy many benefits from social media. From watching your Nigerian grandmother make Jollof rice halfway across the globe on Skype, to getting free career advice on LinkedIn, and even the Go-Fund-Me accounts for those affected by natural disasters. In an ever-changing world of increased globalization and evolving international problems, social media has become pivotal to success; it has almost become a necessity, some may argue. Can you put a price tag on Facebook’s “Mark-Your-Self-Safe” program? I think not!
All in all, I think we can agree that there are benefits and disadvantages to these websites. Have we reached the point where it is a necessity, or is it still a “first world problem”? I think it is an ongoing debate that has a long way to go. In the meantime, however, we can probably use social media in a very responsible way. Introducing: Facebook Fridays!
About a year ago, I decided that I would take a complete break (cold turkey) from all social media. For a college student, that usually doesn’t work out quite well, as you can imagine. Not only did I start binging when I fell for the temptation, but I missed out on invitations to events posted by friends who didn’t have my contact information and useful knowledge on career-programs and organizations. Missing out on such opportunities made me feel like I was left in the dust, but at the same time, I did not want to be as addicted to social media as I was before. So I began dedicating Fridays as a day to go on social media to respond to messages, and scroll through my news feed.
Is this sustainable, or even possible? The journey has been rough, but I have gotten better at it every day since I started. I think limiting our use of social media (or any addictions for that matter) is very realistic and effective, even as college students. It can be difficult to switch from the daily use of social media to only once a week. One can try three days a week with unlimited or limited use during those days. It can also be very helpful to read books on self-control or to have peer accountability. In situations that are grim, attending personal counseling or CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) group sessions could be more effective, both of which are available free of charge on campus to Brooklyn College students. Apart from learning how to have limits and balancing chemical equations, college is a time to learn time-management skills and develop self-control.
On cheat days, it can be even more challenging to remain disciplined. I suggest avoiding the temptation in the first place. When doing work that doesn’t require constant internet access, I recommend turning off the Wi-Fi from one’s computer. I have been in situations where I needed to Google a definition and accidentally (or not) typed “Facebook” into the search bar. One hour later, I would still be trapped in the vortex, clueless to the definition of the word I initially wanted to look up. Another way to avoid temptations in the first place is by deleting or turning off notifications for social media apps from your cell phone. Cell phones have undoubtedly made it easier for us to constantly be updating our social media accounts. Notifications make it even more arduous for us to control when we respond to updates and messages. Eliminating them makes for an easier route to self-control.
But what about when you fall behind? It is important to remember to be gentle with yourself as you shift towards a balance. Every now and then you may end up having a bad day or hear exciting news that you want to share. A good idea is to journal or have a peer that you can talk to about it. Expressing our feelings and struggles helps us deconstruct issues and gives us the ability to look at them from different perspectives, providing ideas on how to approach a given situation. Face to face contact may even persuade you to join in on the new hashtag craze (#facebookfridays!)
Addictions can be very difficult to control. Sometimes, the addiction is so potent that you don’t even realize that you have it. It is important to reevaluate how you spend your time and what can be affecting your productivity and effectiveness at school or work. Once you realize what the problem is and what the contributing factors are, the next step is to join the movement.
Will Facebook do something about this movement? I’m not so sure Facebook will even realize changes in individual usage because as more people become less addicted, even more are newly becoming addicted to social media. That being said, I think that Facebook and other social media companies will continue to invent ways to grasp more of our attention. All in all, the longer we exercise self-control, the better we get at it and the easier it becomes to encourage others to do the same.
As for me, I have made significant progress. I “cheat” sometimes, but I am continuously getting better. The more that I control my use, the better I am at finding other things to do, like spending extra quality time with friends and family. I’ve also made use of Groupon/Living-Social to go out more often instead of being trapped behind the screen (and they said that social media makes us anti-social!). Also, because I know my time is limited, I spend it trying to connect with mentors, motivate others, and finding opportunities on social media: essentially, by being productive.
The path to a more responsible way of using social media is different for all, but I believe it is possible for all.