About Your Co-dependency With Social Media

Four ways to consider balancing your screen time with live-streaming reality

Remember while you are hard at work making connections online, the physical world is working hard making life available to you

Human beings are social animals. We evolved to congregate with other people. Technology exploits our human need to connect, inquire, feel approval, and communicate. Once upon a time we met at the watering place, or hunting and gathering areas. At night, we converged around the fire and exchanged stories. A ‘Like’ was displayed with a smile rather than a click, and often, people raised real thumbs or displayed other positive, non-verbal gestures. Comments were expressed with actual sound! These options still exist, but in western societies we have grown more and more detached from physical, three-dimensional interaction.

Your dependence upon electronic connection is good. Your need for social approval indicates you are probably not a sociopath, but every life needs balance and you can find it.

These days people meet at the message leaving center, however, separated by screens, distance, and even time. Think about this, we have more ways to connect than any other time in history, but so many options make it difficult sometimes to make two-way communications as reliable as they once were.

But are people really connecting? Much more study is needed on this, but if we are to go by what millions of people report about alienation, there are aspects to social media that will never take the place of physical immersion in a three-dimensional world. There are still some experiences that can’t be approximated on screens. Here are four options to get off of Facebook for a bit, so you can benefit from physical face time as well:

1. Your very physical presence with another shows that you value that person

Making time to see people in the flesh is necessary for those relationships you need most. It is wonderful to have technology to stay in touch with others, but think about the words “in touch” They clearly indicate that as handshakes, hugs and things like dancing display, we evolved with physical bodies that gain affirmation of real connection by real connection.

2. Live actions have more impact than left messages

There are a thousand ways to send a message with words, but actions still speak more loudly. You can leave notes, texts or even send photos with relative ease, but that doesn’t mean you should have only virtual relationships. Send an actual note, drop a postcard, pick up a book and offer it to someone. Show actual pictures, articles, or objects.

Go for walks and engage not just dialogue, but body language. Breathe fresh air and experience your body with movement, openness, confidence with relaxed posture and gait. Open your senses and mind, read others’ faces and their demeanor as well. Welcome to being a whole primate again.

3. Accept that you are human, and that others are as well

Learn to not berate yourself for your shortcomings or tech addictions. Think of this: if you are engaged in direct communication with another, and your kid, spouse, friend, or even a store clerk, suddenly snaps their attention over to a game, tablet, smart phone or other device, you get the message that your live interaction is devalued. But when you say “Sorry, got to take this,” or tell your child: “Wait! I’m busy, right now, hold on!” You are guilty of the same kind of neglect. We all have experienced this, or been guilty of this, but engage empathy and presence of action to be in the moment with another, and you will find ample rewards.

If you child is pointing out a butterfly on a flower, you can’t put real life on hold. If your spouse is hunched over raw data offer a shoulder massage. Be real, at least for a few minutes.

4. Celebrate and Appreciate all of life, not just virtual life

In 1912, Emile Durkheim, coined the term effervescence to describe the shared enthusiasm and benefit that groups display, especially when aligned in their religious beliefs. But today far more people are secular, and although a sense of spirituality unites many people, everyday experience, such as sharing photos of pets and kids, food and its preparation, and discussions about culture, including music, art, writing, and technology attract people to one another and often overlap.

Sociologists and psychologists have yet to find a wired version of effervescence. This is because a shared identity, or cause, brings out the very best aspects of people cooperating. Think of the many social movements from abolition to the March for Science. People realize that they can join others and improve the world. You can link online, but then you can make a real difference by showing up in person.

For many, humanity, Earth, and life itself is the greatest cause, and something most agree is worth appreciating, protecting, and fighting for. If you have any doubts at all, go looking for the community of nature nearest your body today. Share with another human if you can. If you don’t find beauty and support –birds, bees, and trees making life possible — in the real and actual world, you must be on the wrong planet.

Please let me know if you are engaged or enraged, by sharing and commenting below. I very much appreciate it.

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.