Thursday, 28 February 2013

Is social media really social?

With all the hype about social media I feel the need to ask the question. How social is social media? What is gained, what is lost and what has changed in the last few years since all this took over?

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I am in an authentic social situation trying to actually engage someone the old fashioned way and I get sidelined by a beeping cell phone. Do I have to explain that actual engagement involves eye contact, face to face conversation and perhaps a good old handshake?

There is an entire generation of people now who actually think staring into a screen and taping their thumbs around is social! Sure it is nice to share pictures and be connected with people all around the world. But how about being connected with the people around you?

I realize that I am turning to a form of social media to write all this. So in defense of blogging I have to say that there is a time and a limit to social media. I don’t want to attempt to quantify this limit; suffice it to say that a mature mind should be able to recognize their personal limit. Be mindful of how much time you spend on Facebook and Twitter and weigh it against how much time you spend really socializing.

Which brings me to my next point. Kids aren’t mature enough and emotionally developed enough to handle social media. Heck most adults aren’t either and that is obvious by the amount of people who insist on texting while driving. But kids are especially vulnerable.

Someone bought my 8-year-old daughter an iPod for Christmas and now she is able to text/vox whomever she pleases. Sounds like a great idea right? I think not. She can’t put that thing down. She has serious panic attacks if she misplaces it or leaves it at home. She drops everything she is doing if that thing beeps. She zones out of family games so she can send texts to grandma. She sneaks it outside and sits alone while other kids are playing. She lays in bed and sends texts and holds on to it waiting for a reply to come back. She hides in the bathroom at the babysitters and sends texts asking for mommy to come and get her.

What am I to do? Should I take the iPod away from her? It is only a few more years until she has her own phone and then what? I could use this opportunity to teach her good habits. I feel overwhelmed.

I will start with myself. From now on I will leave my phone in the car when I go for supper with friends. I will put it down when I am in a group of people I could be talking to. I will NEVER text and drive again! I will lead by example.

Don’t get me wrong. I think G+, Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook are great! I use them all and enjoy making new connections. The world is never going back to the days of smoke signals. Society will have to evolve and adapt and catch up to technology. New norms for politeness will have to form. I embrace all this but I will not forget how to actually be social. My friends and family come first. The people around me get attention before G+ and Twitter. I will get off my ass and be active instead of sitting around being sedentary with my phone in hand.

One last thing; think about how social media is contributing to inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle. When I was a kid I had to walk to my friends house and knock on the door to see if they can play. Now my daughter sends a text from the couch.

The other day I saw a mom at the park with her small children. She was laying on the bottom of the slide and all I saw were her hands and her iPhone held in front of her face. She was completely ignoring her kids.

As the owner of City Motion Fitness Studio I encourage everyone to be more active. Make your kids go out and play. Or better yet put your phone away and play with your kids!


BTW here is a shameless plug. If you want to find me I prefer G+ and Twitter but here is Facebook and Foursquare and LinkedIn as well. But I have to say the days of Facebook for me are nearing an end.