Before she even rolls out of bed in the morning, she flips on her phone. She opens her favorite apps and social media platforms to see who commented on her posts and what new content is out there before the day starts. Her husband lays next to her doing the same.They drag themselves out of bed and sit at the breakfast table scrolling and “checking in.” Most likely the kids are doing the same thing too. Before starting on the day, she’s already spent at least an hour looking at her phone.
Throughout the day anytime she’s got downtime she finds herself reaching into her pocket and pulling out her phone. She responds to private messages, comments, and posts. All-day she’s connecting with friends and family around the world and communicating in a way her grandparents could never have imagined.
It has even become acceptable to hop online at work a few times a day. In the carpool line, she’s scrolling her newsfeed while she waits for her children to come to the car.
Phones may be turned off during family dinnertime. Then she and her husband will check-in “one last time” from bed at night. They will lay in bed scrolling and communicating online while they unwind from their day. The phone will likely be the first thing she sees when she wakes up and the last thing she sees before bed.
Did the scene above feel familiar to you? If we ask the average person, this may be what their day sounds like. If asked about their relationships, we would hear about people from around the country and even around the world they communicate with.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have allowed communication to take on a new form. It is easier than ever to have relationships with people. We have more friends than we ever did before.
This has become second nature for most of us. We love connecting online. We love sharing and seeing what others are up to. It is easy to find out about your best friend in town or that girl you knew in high school. We can maintain relationships and friendships so easily now. The question is, to what extent is this beneficial, and to what extent is this harmful?
Let’s take another look at the scene above. This is typical in most homes and probably feels familiar. She is connecting with friends and he is connecting with his. In many ways, this is beneficial and can be a helpful social outlet for folks. However, it can cause damage, even becoming addictive and harmful.
Start at the opening of our couple’s day. Notice instead of waking up and chatting as husband and wife about their day, they are both on their phones. Yes, they may share a tidbit here or there, but they’re not fully invested in each other as they start their day. When our attention is divided, we are not connecting. Our brain doesn’t believe it needs to prioritize the conversation when we are staring at a screen.
Then mom and dad head to breakfast with the kids. At least one person, if not the whole family, is on a phone. This influences the interpersonal relationships of the family. It also teaches unhealthy boundaries to the kids, telling them that they have to be available at all times to whatever notification comes up on their phone. It is teaching kids that they don’t need to prioritize family meals or connections.
Are we ignoring the ability to build in-person relationships?
As she continues to pull out her phone all day, she thinks she is building relationships. This is where the struggle of social media platforms come in. It is all in our approach to using them. People who get online a couple of times a day and focus on meaningful connections report more satisfaction in their relationships and lives.
“Coffee and Electronics”, Courtesy of Ben Kolde, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; There have been direct correlations showing the amount of time spent on social media and dissatisfaction in social life, relationships, and connection. We’ve become a culture that pulls out our phones every time we’re bored, we’ve become a culture that’s struggling with healthy relationships. Not to mention the negative effects of social media on mental health.
Parents in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s used to chat with one another at school pickup each day. Now we see them on their phones while they wait in line. They may be DMing another parent or looking at accounts of other parents. Instead of getting out of the car and engaging in person, they’re engaging online.
In the last decade, we have seen an increase in people engaging online with people to whom they are in easy proximity and could engage with in person. In-person relationships are weaker than ever and millions of adults report feeling lonely.
Does family time even exist?
Then we come to the end of the day where family members are often going off in their own direction. They are spending more time “connecting” online instead of time with their family. Families are disconnected from one another and we’re starting to see the negative effects play out.
Almost all families report spending time on social media at night. Spending uninterrupted family time together is an anomaly in our culture. Someone’s phone is almost always going to ping.
In previous generations, families might have had dinner, gone for a walk, played a game, or watched a movie together. Today these activities might still happen but most likely at least one person will be on their phone too. They may be connecting with other people via their phones but they’re missing out on connecting with family. The splitting of attention is confusing to the brain and damages relationships.
Is social media harming your marriage?
Then when mom and dad head to bed for the evening they are on their phones again. Couples don’t lay in bed for “pillow talk” as often anymore. Or if they are talking, they distracted. Sexual satisfaction and frequency of sex in marriage also appear to be impacted by social media. Our attention spans have become so short researchers are even looking into how this is impacting our sex lives.
If one, or both partners have struggled with a pornography addiction this can become even more damaging. Social media is creeping more and more into the marriage bed every day. Couples even report using smartphones during sex or choosing to keep scrolling instead of having sex. So not only are families impacted, they are impacting our intimate relationships as well.
Evaluating our use of social media platforms
It is important to evaluate how, when, and why we use social media platforms. These platforms can be beneficial. We can use them to keep in touch with friends and family, connect with those who share interests, find support, and more. They can also become addictive.
Social media use is something many folks are finding helpful to explore with a counselor. The counselor can provide an objective opinion on how you’re using these platforms. They will help you figure out ways to use them to engage and build relationships while not shutting out relationships that are right in front of you.
If you find yourself relating to the scene above, that’s a good sign counseling would be beneficial for you. If your marriage has been impacted, or your relationship with your kids, by social media addiction or poor habits then we would love to help.
This is all still very new territory. We’re seeing a lot of good come from these platforms as well as some struggles. We want to see you thrive in all your relationships, give us a call, and we will help you evaluate your social media usage and habits together.