What are our next generations going to look like in their societal and familial interactions? I think we are very much still in transition, but there are a number of schools of thought around what is healthy, and what may be less so.
Much is rightly made of criminality via social media; from porn to stalking, to bullying to fraud. When we observe with even greater focus, we can also see much in social media that provides potential for growth and celebration.
We see examples of concerns and efforts raising awareness via online campaigns around matters such as mental health and reducing stigma – to animal welfare and human rights; these all help those suffering to find compassion, for those offering help, to BE compassionate, and for the wrongdoers to potentially be ‘outed’.
For marketing of commerce; the solopreneur, the therapist, the satchel designer (!), to the multinational. Social media and affiliated marketing is now a vibrant and critical route to market for products and services offered. Finding our lost family, reunions of work, military, school and many other alumni have provided for wonderful meetings… and hugely cringe-worthy moments! And this leads nicely onto relationships!
Where we may have never even considered writing to an ‘ex’, in the past, or a friend, we can now find them presented to us on a plate, maybe leading us to an opportunity of unintentional harm when we aimlessly stumble upon a rekindling of a relationship from that past. This is frequently, and painfully, presented in my therapy room by clients.
Just the inference of a possible relationship being formed outside of the marriage can be the tipping point in relationships that have become unexciting and staid, or where other issues are being left unaddressed.
We are being driven to rely on this most recent, accessible to all, medium.
‘Like’ us, ‘Tweet’ that, ‘Find us on’… (I am no different!).
But is everything… heck, anything social media… being accessed in moderation?
The funeral: A recent report from a major funeral service provider in the UK said that a growing number of mourners are accessing mobile phones and tablets during the service!
The meeting: It is commonplace and in the opinion of the author, a growing trend, to access emails during a meeting. This is rude enough, but now we are very often encouraged to ‘share’ the event we are attending for promotional purposes – and then find we are ‘checking’ social media by default! Hardly the best way to focus on where you really are supposed to be.
The romantic meal, the family get-together: Mealtimes are all becoming lost to the smartphone or tablet. For decades we have had the divide between those who feel the TV should be switched off at meal-times, those who have come to accept it left on, and those who actively encourage it! Now, there is a further opportunity for a disconnect from each other, and with this the meal and the experience itself.
The date: Bit of a killer of romance I would suggest if when on a date you find yourself, or your date checking the comms!
Your relationship: Please say anything really important in the presence of your loved ones! So many messages shared via social media are ‘lost in translation’. If the relationship has become lost, please try to avoid airing the dirty washing, or, getting revenge ‘online’; it just chains you both together, for even longer, when “he was rubbish in bed” is available for the world to snigger at!
Two views on the rapid access to news events via social media. On the one hand, I think it is a fantastic resource for learning of/about events. On the other, this is a hugely powerful route to propaganda, the creating a belief that the world has indeed become smaller, and therefore all the ‘bad’ stuff is ‘with each of us’, affecting us, and our senses. It is helpful to stay in touch of course, but in moderation.
Just as watching and listening to every news bulletin, stuffed full of negativity, creates in us a feeling of constant threat and doom if we fail to manage the frequency of that which we access. Attending to ‘stories’ via social media channels can become overwhelming, and more easily we can become less aware of the present. We CAN choose to focus on the good stuff, the majority within this world that is good, or…
So, having taken stock of the constant insult to our senses, you take the step to learning to bring yourselves back to reality, to what is really important and you decide to start meditating, become more mindful perhaps and start your road to recovery with regular walks. Great! But the benefits will be lost if you simply alter the environment in which you check your smartphone! Turn off everything but the phone if you must take it with you – In Case of Emergency, of course (blatant plug)!
I wonder if we will all soon be known by our online profile image, our avatar, or, the tops of our heads! Less than helpful when so many use an image of years long gone by! Next party celebration you attend, just observe how many faces are buried studiously in the screens of their devices! We’re all doing it, or if we are not, we soon will be… unless we start to ‘wake up’!
Hopefully, some of us are managing to let go of the social media and are just using the phone to record our beloved offspring’s performance!
On the Plus Side
Sharing: Yes, we can share and celebrate our achievements. Yes, there are others who understand and are feeling this way when things are good – and when they are less so. This has a powerful effect for many who so often, in the depths of low-moods, may think they are so alone and that they are unique in their suffering. One caveat to this, is to choose carefully the community or friends you share tough times with. It is a reality that some may even be pleased to learn someone else is finding life tough; it makes them feel better, or, people may shy away, unsure what to say. Other reports show that some people engage less with negative talk and the effect negativity may have on them.
Social aspects: A contentious issue, and I do think there are very much two sides to the true social aspects of social media. For the introvert, they can ‘fly’, for the work at home, for the parent, for the disabled, to name a few, they can grow social communications. On a more negative side perhaps, socialising from behind a screen may remove us, in some way, from the nuances of face-to-face contact; it may remove some inhibitions that are less healthy, perhaps particularly around alcohol consumption at home; previously consumed in the ‘pub’!
Learning and education: Access to learning/educational material, opinion and countless resources – I think for me – social media has been the greatest life and game changer in its accessibility to learning, for both my personal and professional agendas.
Clearly, we are only only scratching the surface here as this really could have been a book. Moderation is a key to healthy enjoyment and participation particularly relevant for teens, who may well exhibit more narcissistic tendencies. When communications are unclear, misrepresented on social media and magnified by a perception of ones self – or the audience, the emotional impact can be much stronger within this group.
Remove the importance of at least some of the engagement, and checking in much less frequency can help us compare less, feel less stressed and less answerable to ‘them out there’. We are accountable, but for the self-compassion to ourselves first and foremost.
Online can go offline now and again. Book that regular screen break in your diary from today!
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).