Oh, and it gives us obesity, diabetes, and back and neck problems
Yet many of us spend more time than we wish to admit -- or even realize -- on social media.
1. People have always felt the need to self-evaluate and social compare. Social media quantifies something that, historically, we've only been able to qualify.
As I recently wrote in According to Psychology, There Are Four Ways to Feel Better About Yourself:
Humans have a drive to gain accurate self-evaluations. We want to be able to compare our abilities and accomplishments to those of others...Upward social comparison provides hope and opportunities for social modeling. Downward social comparison helps us avoid self-pity.
In the past, knowing how pretty or sexy or popular you were wasn't easy to quantify. I suppose if you won prom king or queen, you would have a measure of how many people liked or adored you.
But mostly, it was like, how many people smile at you or say hello in the hall? How many people showed up at your birthday party?
But now, because of social media, you can regularly and immediately get a very quantitative measure of your social standing. You post a photo or a status update, and you instantly begin getting likes and comments. You know that 32 people liked that photo -- versus the 45 or 13 that someone else got on theirs.
2. It's a fast and easy way to be entertained -- and it requires less energy than entertaining ourselves.
We all live busy, hyperconnected lives. So when we finally have fifteen minutes to ourselves, we have the option of doing something active, like going for a walk, hopping on a slackline or working in a garden --
Or, at least, we think we prefer that. It makes sense that we would think that. Entertaining yourself requires some small startup costs -- you might have to put your shoes on, or get up from your chair, or break a light sweat.
Generating an idea, and then getting up and doing it, takes a small amount of energy. Being entertained takes nothing.
It's related to our instinct for idleness -- we like to do what seems easiest, because, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense to conserve energy for hunting, gathering, fighting and flighting.
Which is actually really sad. Yes, it takes a little energy to get started actively entertaining ourselves. But it leaves us feeling energized.
Being entertained by Facebook doesn't take any energy -- but it leaves us feeling lethargic, lifeless and drained.
Want to know more? Check out: Everything's Always Worth It: Reclaiming the Fifteen Minutes.
3. Overuse of technology has left us feeling shy and socially awkward -- it feels safer and more comfortable to interact in controlled and edited ways.
"When did men stop being men?" is a pretty common complaint you'll hear from women these days.
And, to some degree, they're right.
Men -- and women! -- have become shy, awkward and anxious about social encounters. The reason being:
Social skills are SKILLS. You learn them.
Personally, I have very little sympathy for people who don't want to go out because they're socially awkward -- it's kind of like saying they don't have good running skills, so they never go running.
You have to work at it.
And it definitely gets easier, the more you do it.
Just ask... Oh, I don't know... How about Steve Jobs?
He's known for being all commanding and charismatic and stuff. But guess what? He taught himself to be that way! He wasn't like that as a young man. He learned charisma! He learned social and communication skills.
As an adult.
And you can, too.
I once wrote about how I have a problem with "pickup artists," but after reading Dr. Philip Zimbardo's new book, Man Interrupted: Why Young Men Are Struggling & What We Can Do About It:
While I don't agree with all PUA methods, I can't emphasize strongly enough that there is no shame in trying to improve your social confidence or competence -- whether you do it through books (I highly recommend The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art of Personal Magnetism, by Olivia Fox Cabane) or coaching or good old fashioned practice.
Humans are social creatures. One of the things that makes us happiest is another face. Like a real one. Looking and smiling at us.
It's easy to interact (or stalk) online. It's quick. It's "safe." Getting little notifications about likes and comments might even make you feel a little bit good, for a second -- but at what cost?
Louis C.K. had a cool insight about this once that I thought would be interesting to close with:
- Playfulness Isn't a Trait. It's a Skill. If You're a Millennial, You Probably Never Learned It.
- I got a smartphone, and it instantly made me less cool.
- Everything's Always Worth It: Reclaiming the Fifteen Minutes.
- Behold: The Number One Best Way to Make New Friends as an Adult.
Or! Ignore everything I just wrote and find me on Twitter or Facebook!