Two-thirds of American adults are on Facebook. 69% of adults in this country find themselves updating their statuses, changing their profile pictures and adding photos and videos to share with family and friends. And according to the PEW Research Center, between Feb. 2005 and August 2006 the use of social networking sites among adult internet users jumped from 9% to 49%, and continues to steadily increase.
In another study featured in Time, two German universities studied 600 participants who logged their time on social networks. After spending time sifting through those social networks, one in three felt worse after visiting profiles of friends. The study concluded that “skimming through photos of friends’ life successes can trigger feelings of envy, misery, and loneliness.”
Now, I can see how this happens. Facebook and Twitter are merely everyone’s highlight reel – vacations, good news about that promotion, the nights spent with friends at fancy restaurants. Rarely do you see the rough times, the times the paycheck doesn’t cover the bills, or the nights spent at home watching Netflix and going to sleep early on a Friday night.
But nevertheless, it affects us.
Arguments will eventually erupt on Facebook, Twitter spats go from friendly discourse to vicious, and trolls inevitably grab a hold of the most neutral blog content and turn your day upside down.
Around this time last year I felt like I had no other option but to ban myself from social media for about a week. I received a rather nasty comment on one of my blog posts and didn’t know how else to deal with it. It was early on in blogging for ACNM (my second or third post) and I knew it was going to happen sooner-or-later and I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. I wasn’t prepared for how easy it is to spew hatred and ugliness behind the anonymity of a QWERTY keyboard.
But, the break did some good. It finally got my focus off who was updating their status, who was tweeting which photo and who checked in where and allowed me some distance from the situation. It was kind of refreshing, finding myself not connected in the craziness of online life 24/7.
Now, social media isn’t inherently bad. Look at how we use new media to evangelize. We have an opportunity to show people that as Catholics, we’re allowed to have fun, like popular culture and enjoy a movie or two. We can also share our witness to our faith and Jesus Christ through a platform that most of the world participates in.
The season of Lent is approaching and some I know individuals choose to give up social media and that’s great. But, if you’re like me, and social media is a part of your job, maybe decide to make conscious effort to make sure your extra time online is meaningful and not just a time filler that you could spend other ways, perhaps in prayer or in reflection of the daily readings.
What are some ways you balance social media in your life? Do you have times where social media is a no-go? Or how do you plan to change your social media usage during Lent?
UPDATE: This morning, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will retire at the end of this month, for more visit ACNM’s article on his announcement.