Person and Machine: A Guide to a More Balanced Life
Social Networking and Well-Being
We all know too much of a good thing can make us sick… whether it be too much chocolate, too much exposure to sunlight, or even too much time with social media.
Online social media has been around for a little over ten years and is the “go to” thing for connection. It is a great way to stay in touch, increase business visibility, connect with like-minded individuals, and stay informed about local events. But what do we know about the impact on our overall well-being and life-satisfaction? According to the research we are learning the more time spent on social media technologies, the more negative the impact it has in these areas:
- Increased anxiety
- Increases in depression and loneliness
- Elevation in blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels
- Decline in life satisfaction levels
- Decline in subjective well-being
- Decreased trust in people
- Increased isolation from others
- Associated with addiction and dependency
These findings can feel a little frightening. What can we do when everyone around us expects us to be “online” 24/7? How can we possibly slow down when everything in our society is going faster and faster? What can we do when our technologies seem to be in control? Awareness is key. When we are more aware of the potential dangers, we can create a new relationship with our technology that takes our well-being into consideration.
We Can Take Personal Action with Awareness and Balance
Now that we know some of the dangers of too much time with technology, we can respond to ourselves with more awareness. One way to increase awareness is to take notes about the time spent on the computer, phone, or tablet. Rate on a scale of 1-10 (1 = none, 10 = extreme) how you feel in some of the areas listed above; such as mood, anxiety level, feelings of loneliness, life-satisfaction, etc. Rate yourself at the beginning and at the end. Notice any differences.
This information can help us learn to tune-in to our bodies. We can listen to how we feel and respond to ourselves according to what we experience. If we notice we are becoming more anxious or moody, stop and engage in something else. If it is difficult to come up with something to do, Fuller Life has a number of “healing practices” that are enriching for both the body and spirit.
Create Balance with Technology
One of the challenges of social media is that it begins to crowd out other things that are important in our life. It can easily slip more and more into every crevice of our day. What if we could engage online in a way that creates balance between our technologies and our face-to-face experiences? We can set aside tech-free zones that protect our well-being and cultivate close relationships. MIT professor, Sherry Turkle, calls these times “sacred space.”
Sacred space is for me the places in your daily life you want to keep for yourself and the people who you need to give full attention to… It’s dinner, it’s sharing meals with your family, it’s that moment at school pickup when your kid looks up and is trying to meet your eye. Sherry Turkle
Here are some ideas to try out with your friends and your family.
- Time in nature with a friend
- Time around the dinner table
- School pick-up and drop-off
- Date night
- Study time for exams
- Tech free zones in the home
Every new practice takes time to feel natural. It takes at least 66 days to create a new habit. Experiment with one or two of the ideas up above, or create your own possibilities, and notice what happens.
It is essential to change our relationship with social media because it is here to stay. With awareness and balance, we can respond to our technologies in a way that puts us back in the driver’s seat, so that our health and wellness are no longer at the mercy of our machines.