Social Media: Friend or Foe?

Although a few months have passed since the tragic death of @Military_Mom’s son, the controversy it caused still resonates.  Friends came to her defense, yet others were outraged claiming if she had paid more attention to her son instead of Twitter, he could still be alive.  On a broader scale, it got everyone thinking: how dependent are we on social media and when do we say, “Enough is enough?”

Nowadays, social media is a major factor in how we interact with one another.  More often than not, exchanging telephone numbers with a new acquaintance is substituted by a promise to friend on Facebook or follow on Twitter.  The ways in which we interact with others, receive our information, and promote ourselves have become a public affair; instead of a one-on-one bond, we find ourselves fostering one large open relationship.

Growing up in the age of technology, it’s hard to imagine my life without email, AIM, Facebook, etc.  Even so, I wince at how many hours a day I spend checking social updates and my inbox.  And it is harder than ever to disengage: as technology advances, it’s becoming easier to access the web from anywhere at any time.

So when does the use of social media become excessive?  Should we start limiting our hours devoted to online interaction?  Lifehacker recently suggested people try the “Slow Media Diet” consisting of minimized computer use outside of work purposes.  Yet, I find that many of us today are expected to stay connected 24/7 with the latest media outlet, smart phone, etc.  This said, as the web becomes increasingly easier to access, the amount of real face-to-face socializing decreases.  Is it time for us to focus on minimizing social media dependency?

I often wonder the extent to which future generations will rely on media to pass the time.  Will reliance on technology help or harm them?  For now, I cringe when I see kids texting or playing video games during a family outing or at the dinner table.  In those instances I wonder, are we failing to teach this generation the art of good conversation and debate?  Perhaps, but who’s to say Gen Y is heading in the “wrong” direction?

This question isn’t limited to the youngest generation, however.  People of all ages are finding their online niche.  Social media has influenced the masses, for we all realize the beauty in reaching anyone at anytime.  Regardless of the tech frenzy, my goal is to limit the unnecessary hours I spend online and interact with real people instead.  This may entail cutting down the time I waste aimlessly checking Facebook or Twitter; I’d rather meet someone for a cup of coffee than send an @reply telling them how good it is.

The Internet has provided us with unbelievable outlets for communication and news.  It’s an astounding resource for all and pages of information are only a few clicks away at all times.  The way I see it, social media is a luxury that opens many windows of opportunity: job offers, networking, friendships.  At the same time, online addictions and overuse of social media are becoming prevalent in today’s society.  So, what do you think?  Have we crossed the line into social media excess?