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Is 2014 the Year to Unplug?

Posted by Joanne on January 2, 2014 Comments (2)

For part of last year, I unplugged. I unplugged from most of social media for the summer. Earlier in the year, I even stopped blogging. Perhaps it had something to do with my last post and deciding to focus on where magic happens. We have only so many minutes in a day and it seemed like social media was taking a larger percentage of my time than it should. It was getting to be a bit much.

I think social media can be isolating some how, and this seems to be verified by a study about social media and its impact on loneliness. Sure there are connections online but to have deeper relationships people need to spend time in real life. I spent my “found” time reconnecting with my in real life friends (some, ironically, that I’ve met through my online community), colleagues, and former clients; the people, in addition to my family, whom I cherish and who cherish me. Seems like more people are thinking this way.

On January 1 of this year two people I admire greatly because of their love of life and of a each other announced that they were unplugging from social media for all of 2014. Why? Because they said they seemed to be more attached to their social networks than to each other. And they were going to take the year to experience life and moments together, privately, and in real life. I applaud them.

Another online acquaintance regularly posted that he would be purging his Facebook friends and if people hadn’t interacted with him he would “unfriend” them. When I went to comment on his new profile picture I found that I was “unfriended.” Well, I had been warned. I hadn’t interacted or commented or Liked any of his status updates and he hadn’t interacted with me either, so it was valid to be “unfriended.” But it made me think – this guy is on to something. Why gather “friends” who never interact with you directly? Who never reply to your comments or even acknowledge that you’ve spoken to them online? Social media makes it very easy to ignore someone and, at the same time, my in real life friends would never “unfriend” me because I hadn’t spoken to them in a few months. Real life friends can meet up with each other after a prolonged absence and talk a mile in a minute as if there had never been an absence.

Another colleague said she was cutting back on social media because she was sick of the facade that everyone’s life was totally awesome. Life isn’t sugar coated, she said, and social media lets you filter your life to only the good things. I think she has a valid point. Are we airbrushing our lives online like advertisers who make models perfect and flawless? Does social media somehow make us feel like our life and careers are lacking because everyone else seems to be living a life covered in awesome sauce?

I’m not a psychologist but this is where I think social media becomes isolating. We don’t pour our souls out, our challenges, and our hardships to people who are not our in real life friends. We only do that with people who really know us and with whom we have formed deep relationships; we share the whole picture. So if we are spending more time online we aren’t having those deep conversations that help form the type of intimacy that banishes loneliness. In fact, Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., a research psychologist, and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University, wrote in Psychology Today, that “it is important to remember that as far as barometers of friendship go, social media is pretty shallow. It’s unrealistic, and dangerous, to presume you know how someone feels about you based on how they react or respond to you, or don’t, through virtual means, whether that presumption is positive or negative. How people use social media is too new, and too varied. Judging how someone feels about you is what in-the-moment conversations and face-to-face encounters are for. It’s called real life—remember that?”

A good friend of mine many years ago told me that we need to gather more experiences and less things. I think this applies to social media as well. I love my online community, but I should not be spending all my time there. Life is an adventure and life is a choice. Every day we make choices that hopefully enhance relationships and make our life a good one. We need to live more in real life because the most important people in our lives, the ones who know us really well and care about us deeply, are the ones who are right in front of us.

May your 2014 be blessed with happiness, health, meaningful work and deep relationships, Joanne






 Joanne Royce



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