The Media-Made Introvert: Is Social Media Making You Antisocial?
What a productive afternoon, I thought to myself. Ordered my new spring wardrobe on Asos, updated my beauty collection on FeelUnique, liked my friend's holiday pictures and maintained my Snapchat streak. An entire day without actually interacting with anyone. Hey, I even ordered and paid for my Thai takeaway which the driver dropped off on my doorstep. I didn't speak to a single person.
This didn't occur to me until I was wandering around Sephora the following day. While I was picking out things I liked, I was making up a basket on my phone to order later. It got worse. When a helpful sales assistant asked if I needed help I looked like a deer caught in the headlights. In fact, here is an actual CCTV recording of my reaction:
I'm kidding. So I went to grab a coffee while I finalised my online order when it occurred to me how little I fancied all the effort of doing so. Instead, I nipped into the adjacent supermarket, grabbed an iced coffee, through the self-service checkout and I was on my way home. Done and dusted with my order confirmation notification glittering on my phone.
Is our online life making us less social? It's a scary thought. But in a world where every second person has some form of anxiety and every third person is an "introvert", shouldn't we be looking at why? I have always been a real get-up-and-go sorta person. I was very sociable and in every social circle available, I loved striking up conversations with strangers on a bus or in a shop but now I'm a little more stressed by it all. I'll admit, moving to a french-speaking country has shaken my confidence just a tad but still, my toes curl when my phone rings.
Sorry, last gif I swear.
A mobile phone was once a blessing; it allowed me freedom to stay out after curfew (as a result of ringing mum for permission, of course) and it also meant I could browse the web uninterrupted while my mum could use her mobile to make calls. Oh, the days of dial-up. But your phone is no longer used just to call your mum (well, in my case it is *sobs*). A phone is now a radio, camera, calculator, book, newspaper, music player, alarm clock...the list goes on. It's great! It means I can carry smaller, cuter purses everywhere and still read my copy of Gone Girl. As marvy and all as our devices are, I like to think there are a few indirect, negative results of being online all the time. Should we make some changes?
You what? Yep, you heard me! Despite your step counter or calorie logging app, your online lifestyle could be the secret factor to your weight gain. Firstly, there's #foodporn. Research published in the October 2015 issue of the journal Brain and Cognition found that the brain undergoes dramatic changes in response to food images that intensify physical hunger. According to the study, “external food cues, such as the sight of appetising food, can evoke a desire to eat, even in the absence of hunger.”. Think about it; you're browsing Instagram and you see a picture of your friend's meal, you instantly fancy it (or something similar) regardless of how hungry you actually are. Life online also means that you can do all your necessary tasks online. Ordering clothes, beauty products, weekly food shop, takeaways, lotto tickets all online and delivered to your door means you don't even need to get out of bed to take care of your errands. This is making you less active in your day and promoting a sedentary lifestyle.
Some tips to promote good health around your social networks are:
- Plan and cook your meals at home. Prepare healthy snacks to have on hand.
- Shop locally and as organically as possibly. Set aside time in the week to visit the shop and take advantage of offers in store.
- Regulate your newsfeeds; unfollow food accounts and be considerate when sharing snaps of your food.
- Avoid distractions when you're eating. Put the phone away, turn off the TV. Be present when eating your food.
OPENING OUR COMPUTERS, SHUTTING OUR DOORS
I have lots of "friends" and "followers" online. I often think that a quick birthday message on someone's wall is sufficient contact for the next 365 days but really, it's not. I remember at school when it was someone's birthday they were showered with cards and little gifts and a celebratory muffin with a candle in it from the canteen. I was shocked to hear a young friend of mine say "yeah, I wrote Happy Birthday on his wall so I don't need to do it when I get to class."
Living in a different country to my family, I take pleasure in writing holiday and birthday cards and posting them from the actual post office. Sure, I may not always send it in time but it's the thought that counts. I was also amazed to see how few people actually know what to write in a card let alone be sentimental. Am I overreacting? Is Facebook wall message sufficient? I've seen some messages say as little as "HB xoxo" or "😁✌️❤️🎂🎉". It's like we're returning to the days of hieroglyphs.
Want to get a little more personal? Here are some tips:
- Check your Facebook calendar and add important birthdays to your diary. Send out handwritten cards for important dates.
- When you feel like catching up with someone, offer to meet them in person or call instead of texting the entire conversation.
- Smile, be genuine and ask others about themselves instead of just talking about yourself. Compliments don't hurt, either!
- If you see someone struggling, offer to help. Carrying bags, lifting a pushchair down some steps, slowing traffic to help someone across can really make someone's day and potentially make a friend too.
YOUR SELF ESTEEM
Is this one such a shocker? We are bombarded everyday from adverts telling us what we must have to needing an "Instagram-worthy", designer life. It's hard to be authentic online, regardless of what Social Media Stars promise. We pick ourselves apart in order to achieve something aesthetic and perfect; something that will make people envious of you and wish they had their lives as together as you. Don't deny it, how many selfies did you take before settling on that one photo?
We also need this validation from strangers online. If your photo/status/tweet doesn't hit double figures then you delete it. But why are we allowing others to justify our living habits? What's worse is this new online reality is giving license to offensive behaviour. Without face-to-face interactions and having a screen to act as a buffer, people are getting a lot more ballsy when it comes to their "witty banter". This leads to offensive material being posted, cyberbullies running riot and a whole lot of negativity on your screen when you first open your eyes in the morning.
Sooth your soul and protect your ego with these tips:
- Watch what you post. Once you put it out on the internet, it's there forever so if it isn't something you would show your granny then don't post it!
- Comment only kindness. Instead of nit-picking someone or berating their hard work online, see a little kindest and comment some positivity instead.
- Filter what you see. If someone you follow only instils jealousy or negativity when you see their post then unfollow them. This goes for friends too. You don't have to unfriend them, simply filter them.
- Don't pick fights or react to one, you will always lose, regardless. You will only end up like the pot or the kettle; both are calling the other black. It's unnecessary, just avoid altogether.
My research into this topic certainly opened my eyes to a lot of things. I think I will certainly try to be more mindful about my online behaviour and how it impacts my life. What do you think? Am I overreacting or would you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.