A few months ago my husband and I visited one of our favorite restaurants, after we sat down and ordered drinks we found ourselves in a comfortable silence.
Date night, and silence?
Yes, because both of us has immediately pulled our phones out and connected instantly to all of our social media followers. Few words were actually spoken that evening. That night I tossed and turned. Flash forward a few weeks, and we go to dinner as a family with our 3 children. Again, same routine, drinks were ordered and there we sat, in comfortable silence, connecting with our followers during a family outing. Again, a restless night.
Something was terribly wrong. Didn’t my husband and I set ground rules when we purchased smart phones for our children? Yet, we had set the example. I always said that we would not be that family, sitting in silence while browsing and refreshing social media accounts. Guess what, we had become that family and it caused a great deal of unrest for me. I started becoming more aware of how little we were actually functioning as a family unit and how little any one of us were actually present in the moment. So now that I have admitted my own guilt, I have to talk about why being in a constant state of plugged in can be harmful and why it is good to unplug from time to time.
There are studies being published daily on the harmful effects of being plugged in 24/7. One of the most harmful effects is really a no brainer, it is harmful to interpersonal communication skills.
While some may argue that being plugged in is a constant form of connection, it truly is not.
Majority of social media updates are unfocused and lack appreciation and gratitude for the life that is occurring right before our eyes. We miss precious moments that we cannot get back or recreate. Traditionally, supper time was the time that families enjoyed a meal and connected with each other with meaningful conversation. Now, families are sitting around the table in silence while updating their status and text friends. Children are becoming strangers to their parents and vice versa. Humans are social creatures, but social media takes away the moment of talking or meeting in the flesh, the opportunity to make eye contact, and to really feel and be present in the moment with someone. Another, and perhaps more serious pitfall of staying connected 24/7 is that it can breed unhealthy feelings such as jealousy. Peer pressure has been around since the dawn of time and is par for the course in childhood and adolescence but was mainly limited to other neighborhood kids and classmates. The internet has changed the playing field, social media pressure comes from all over the world and can create anxiety, depression, and poor self-image among teens. Teens, and adults alike are pressured to create their idealized life via social media. This can lend to a whole lot of pressure and anxiety. Who wants to see pictures and updates about a lonely midnight ice cream binge? Social media feeds also lend to create a false sense of reality, especially for adolescents.
Now I challenge you to unplug yourself and your family for a week, unless it is work related.
Look for more meaningful ways to spend time together, create, and be present in each moment. Do not succumb to the “I’m bored” arguments from your spouse or children. You and your family will benefit and you may find that at the end of the week you do not miss staying connected that much. The first few days will be rough, but at the end of the week you will find yourself and your family enjoying each other again, relationships will be strengthened and you will get to know your children and spouse again. Wouldn’t you rather go out and be present and actively participating in activities instead of just liking other people’s pictures? At the end of the week, you can reestablish boundaries for social media use, but create well defined times that everyone in the family will unplug and connect with each other. Ultimately, the benefit of unplugging is simple, you will get your life, and family back. You will create ways to enjoy time as a family and conversations will become more meaningful.