With technology and online activities quickly overtaking most teenagers’ and adults’ lives, I can’t help but feel light years behind. Comically enough, I work in a technology-related position and still feel as though I’m missing the boat on more days than not. From the lowly beginnings of social media on MySpace, to the lightening-fast text-restricted ongoings of Twitter, to the onslaught of ever-changing iPad/Pod/Phone/Tablet/Prism Recorders… social media and online “living” are becoming the only social reality we have.
With tear-jerking stories of adopted children finding their birth parents and heart-wrenching tales of soldiers seeing their children’s faces after a year of deployment, it’s easy enough to overlook the negative consequences of having the entire world at the tip of our fingers.
But, they are there. And these negative consequences are dramatically affecting people’s happiness, hope, and gratitude.
People are committing adultery like wildfire. From the extremes of online flirting through Facebook messaging to Adult Friend Finder, temptations for people to stray from their marriages and relationships are overwhelming. I can’t count how many inappropriate opposite-sex comments I’ve witnessed on social media pages of people in committed relationships.
Romantic relationships aren’t the only ones negatively affected by social media. Family and friendships begin to wither through online living as well. What started as a college networking website, Facebook now houses thousands, possibly millions, of parents and extended family members online. While in some cases this is positive through picture and status sharing with a far away loved one, it also lowers familial boundaries.
Gone are the days of “catching up” on the weekend or at the next family gathering. Suddenly you know what every family member ate for lunch, what errands are stressing them out, and how they feel about Zynga’s latest game. Tweets fly back and forth about bread and milk from the store. LinkedIn messages are typed with no thoughts about careers or professional networking. You suddenly aren’t able to vent 140-characters without several family members commenting, liking, poking, retweeting, or linking. Just typing the list is enough to exhaust someone, nevermind having that much familial boundary-less interaction daily.
But outside cheating partners and altered family relationships, social media has a greater negative affect on users: gratitude and happiness theft.
What starts as a normal, pleasant day can suddenly be uprooted with ruminating thoughts of comparison and judgment. After logging into your Twitter account and tallying the countless stay at home moms/girlfriends/wives, you begin to resent your job, resent your time wasted, resent the fact that you have to be at work.
You switch it up and log in to LinkedIn. Now you’re questioning why Susie Q has a better job than you, and if you had the job she had, you could vacation more!
Fuck it, switch to Facebook. Now you’re immersed in sunny tropical vacation pictures, statuses of “LaZy BeAcH dAy!”, and comments about houses/babies/marriage while you idly rot behind your cubicle wall.
Which brings us to the end result of social media: loss of happiness, decreased motivation, and the absence of gratitude. And don’t forget your complimentary internal freak-out behind a computer screen on a daily basis.