Hand holding phone with Instagram on screen

Reevaluating our relationship with social media

Eight a.m. rolls around and we snooze the alarm on our phone. We scroll through media and news, daily trends and discounts. We check the weather app to help decide whether a sweater is necessary. We check our GPS to find the quickest route. We play our music as we commute. We purchase our morning coffee and bagel with our rewards app. We plan, schedule, remind, communicate, congratulate, meet, order, learn and essentially live our lives from the comfortable distance of our handheld black mirrors.

“Be present,” is a sentiment we echo and strive for. However, it has instead been confused with our digital presence. We have been conditioned to view our relationship with social media in one of two ways: to either be constantly active or to detach and detox from it altogether or for lengths at a time.

While we can see the pros and cons of both options, we should perhaps consider a happy medium by looking at the time we do routinely spend online.

Our usernames allow us to participate in multiple platforms, from bridging community across geographic and linguistic borders to giving voice and value to important matters. No longer are audiences a silent, exclusively receptive group. Audiences now have an active voice and are expected to practice that privilege.

Foreign correspondent and CEO of Hashtag Our Stories Yusuf Omar gained attention after he produced a documentary on the Syrian Civil War with footage from his phone. The attention led him to advocate for journalists and other individuals to visualize and vocalize their stories, experiences, perspectives through online platforms because we can.

Understanding the power of social media is important if we want to influence goodness, truth and kindness, rather than be influenced.

How can we begin? By taking small, yet impactful steps.

One tip is to delete certain apps or to reorganize the layout of your apps, either by pages or folders, to simplify your screen as a physical and visual aid from distraction. If you can’t seem to let go of certain ones, consider replacing them with more mindful apps, like Moment.

Moment is an app that tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone, providing people with a digital coach that guides healthy use. The app raises self awareness regarding the time you spend checking your phone. Their big idea is to give back time, helping you to find a balance between reality and online.

When you are active on social media, be more mindful of why: is it for inspiration, for information, for interconnection? Is it for escapism, for engagement, for entertainment? Whatever the case, being more conscious of what draws you to use your phone and social media might cause a more efficient consumption and productive posting. At the very least, you might realize that when you do pick up your phone, you know what you’re looking for, rather than picking it up mindlessly.

As we begin our new year, let’s join the fight against apathy with advocacy for mindful, intentional and purposeful actions both in real life and on digital media.

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Eliana Park

Eliana Park is a storyteller-in-the-making, passionate about people. She pursues the untold narratives of sundry cultures to cultivate a community of grown perspectives.