The Psychology of Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr – the social media world is ever evolving and we can’t seem to get enough of it. These platforms were made to connect us, yet for many they have had the opposite effect.

I have what I call Facebook friends. Friends that I am connected with through Facebook, but that I would never pick up the phone to call, message or hang out with in real life. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure you might have some of these too.

Last month I was with my kids, nieces and nephews at the park. My 13-year-old niece mentioned that she saw some of her friends there. I asked her if she talked to them and she said no. When I asked why not she looked at me weirdly and said that they were friends on social media but that she didn’t really know them.

Whether we’re 32 or 13, we’ve fallen for the trend of adding people to our social media circles just to add them. What about our real friends and family? Have you ever been at a real life gathering where everyone is staring at their phones? We all laugh about it and it has become the norm, but thinking about the example we are setting for the next generation makes me a little sad.

The Age of Oversharing

Social media was created to connect and share our lives. It has turned into a platform where we can be self-indulged, put on the costume that we want the world to see and disconnect from our actual friends and family. In another sense it has turned into a place where people share memes and a ridiculous amount of videos that make us wonder why we even clicked play.

Why? Why do we feel the urge to share so much of ourselves with people who don’t mean very much? Granted, some of us may have our real friends and family on social media who we know will see what we share. I have considered pulling the Facebook plug many times, but can’t seem to do it. Why? Is this what addiction is?

If you’re on Facebook you might remember a time when everyone was sharing a picture of themselves and their spouses in honor of some marriage topic. I was tagged plenty of times to do it, but I respectfully declined. I think it’s great to honor our spouses, but for me the greatest way I can show someone I love them is by telling them directly face-to-face. Maybe some of these people did that, maybe some of them didn’t.

I don’t talk or share very much about my marriage. I tell Nic directly how I feel about him. Because he knows, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks or if they know. Sure, there are times when I or he might not be able to contain ourselves and must let the (social media) world know about one another. When that happens it’s a pleasant surprise because it’s so rare and never expected.

The Power of Popularity

When we share something on social media it’s only the beginning. We get a thrill every time someone likes or comments on our posts. But the thrill is short-lived, so we continue the cycle of posting more, commenting and liking others’ posts so that they can feel the thrill and continue the cycle.

Social media is not bad. What is bad is what we have let it turn into in our lives. For many of us, it’s one of the first things we do when we wake up and one of the last things we look at when we go to sleep. We’ve let it become a distraction, a medium that we give more attention to than our families, and a tool that makes us feel better about ourselves.

I am guilty of everything I am writing. But my hope is that we can change it. Seth Godin has stated that being popular is overrated. What you should strive to be is missed. Will anyone miss us if we’re gone? I’m sure our Facebook friends will be sad, but they likely won’t.

Are we building connections and relationships in real life that make us forget about social media all together – connections that get us so focused and fixated on enjoying the moment in front of us?

Really Live

Kids grow up – fast. People pass on. What most of us desire in life is the ability to truly connect. Social media can be a tool to help us connect more, but it will not fill the void we may have due to the absence of real life connection.

Let’s put our phones away when we’re out with friends and family and give them our full attention. Let’s play with our children and realize that we don’t always have to share a picture of how we’re playing with them or where we’re playing.

Let’s attempt to try and find comfort in a quiet room without resorting to staring at our phones to ease the awkwardness. The world is such a noisy place. Let’s make sure that the noise we add is truly beneficial.

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