Social media is a large part of college students’ lives. While social media can be beneficial, often times it is overused and can weaken our social connections.
Assistant Professor of Communication Kristina Wenzel organized an event at Eckerd with Carol Bruess, professor emerita of communication and journalism at the University of St. Thomas, about the role technology plays in our relationships. They explained how it can be overbearing, but a great social tool when used correctly.
Checking in on our friends and posting photos of our lives is great, yet doing it too much can take up much needed leisure time. Scrolling through Instagram on the way to class is absorbing more information rather than simply being aware of where you’re walking for five minutes and being in the moment.
“Our social media sites, Facebook, probably Snapchat and especially Instagram, lack stopping cues,” Wenzel said. “What that means is that they are endless, you can scroll through endlessly.”
Without these stopping cues, hours can be spent scrolling on social media.
Senior Lauren Schnabel, a communications major, attended Bruess’ event and checked her battery usage to see how much time she spends on her phone.
“Yesterday I felt like I wasn’t on my phone as much but it turns out that I was on my phone for five hours,” Schnabel said. “My average is about five hours a day.”
There is also an assumption of always being online and able to contact. A quick response is always expected and has become a social rule. This causes us to be tied to our cell phone.
“We are the ones who create and sustain these social rules... and I think creating sacred time for yourself creates a ritual of kindness and consideration for yourself and others,” Wenzel said.
Social media can be good in moderation. The problem that is often ignored is the amount of time spent mindlessly scrolling. It takes away from the time to personally experience things rather than watching other people experience things through your phone.
“I think there is a time and place for it [social media], there are good and bad aspects. It’s great because it connects everybody,” Schnabel said. “We can’t deny the fact that there is some correlation, be there that hinders relationships and the way that we communicate.”
While social media can make us feel connected to more people, it cannot compare to emotional connection. The tone, facial expression and other nonverbal cues are needed to understand and communicate well within close relationships.
“More time we spend online may compromise the face to face contact we have with people,” Wenzel said.
Put your phone on do not disturb at night or in class, check how often you are on your phone or get an app that notifies you how many hours of screen time you use. Experience life rather than watching others do it.