A couple of weeks ago, I took my daughter out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Because she is a vegetarian and usually has to search through menus to find appealing vegetarian options, this time I decided to take her to a trendy vegan restaurant. We had a great time, but as we were waiting for our food to arrive, I looked around the restaurant and saw that it was beginning to fill up with couples. Some of them looked to be in their early twenties but there were a few older couples as well. The one thing they all had in common was that once they were seated, they pulled out their smartphones or tablets and began typing.
Throughout the meal, the people rarely looked up at each other. Although I wasn't watching everyone, there was a couple seated at the table next to me. They were playing a game with each other, but there wasn't much conversation. I started thinking about how easy it is to mistake social media connectedness with real connectedness.
The more time we spend connecting with people online, the more likely it is that our social connections have grown in number, but decreased in actual closeness. Instead of spending time with close friends, we are more often talking with our Twitter followers or the people who subscribe to us on Facebook. What ends up happening is that we become lonelier than ever, even though we are more accessible than ever.
Here are 4 things you can do to stop social media loneliness:
Use the tools effectively - Use Facebook and other sites to connect with your friends and family. Set up get-togethers and use the tools to get involved with your friends in real time. The tools don't have to be used to further isolate us.
Take time offline - The world won't come to an end if you turn off your favorite devices. Plan an internet free meal time or other time to just connect with your family. It might be painful at first, but online connection and really connecting are two different things. Make talking a priority.
Plan events - Use your social network to plan real time get togethers. Get your extended network involved in a volunteer project or a community enrichment program. The possibilities are endless. Try to come up with something that will help get the people you care about away from their computer screens.
Get away from your screen - Start a new hobby or even take a walk. Plan portions of your day so that you have time with no screen and no distraction. Sometimes a 15 minute walk is all it takes to recharge and feel more in touch with yourself.
Have you ever felt burned out or lonely because of social media? Do you have any other tips to offer?