While walking on a college campus, it has become far more common to see people walking around with a smartphone in their hand rather than a textbook. With apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, social media has become a major part of college students’ lives.
As we approach the holiday season, some people have begun to question if the attractive qualities of social media can impact interactions with family and friends. Michael Weigold, the University of Florida (UF) associate dean for Undergraduate Affairs and Enrollment Management said social media is appealing to its users because it is easy to use, provides users with instant gratification and allows the user to be in total control.
Social media is good at drawing its users in and making them want to stay connected. Lisa Buyer, a professor in social media management at UF and author of SocialPRSecrets, said that social media is always on and there is always something new.
Not only is there always something new on social media, but people have become dependent on it for more than entertainment purposes.
When an Instagram user shares a photo with their friends, they are looking for instant gratification in the form of likes and comments on their post. The same idea relates to posts on Facebook or Twitter.
“If you and I are having a conversation, you say something and I say something and I have to say something interesting and you have to say something interesting,” Weigold said. “On social media, somebody can say ‘Let me think about.’ Let me think about what I want to say. Let me think about what picture I want to show. Let me think about what aspect of my life I want to focus on or share with other people.”
While some people invest in social media because it is an aspect of their lives where they are in total control, some people can become deeply invested and addicted to it because they have a fear of missing out if they aren’t constantly checking their accounts.
“Mindfulness and being present in the moment is more of a challenge than ever because of social media,” Buyer said.
The valuable time that families spend together during the holidays may be interrupted by the distractions of social media. Being in the moment becomes more important for many people during this time of year. However, for some, creating these limits and making time for loved ones can be difficult.
Since many millennials are active on more than one social media platform, there is more of an opportunity for them to stay plugged in. However, with so many platforms available, it’s easier to become addicted. Similar to an addiction to alcohol or food, there are unhealthy consequences that come along with social media addiction, including impacts on interpersonal relationships. According to Anxiety.org, social media can cause anxiety, self-consciousness or a need for perfectionism. Making users aware of these side effects may help them to be more conscious of them, unplug from their social media more often and take the time to be present in their environment — rather than seeing the world through their screen.
It might be a challenge to tell public relations professionals to disconnect from their social media; however, we should recognize that spending face-to-face time with family and friends is another way that we stay connected. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will still be full of new posts when you return from your holiday.
Jordan McCrary is a sophomore public relations major from South Florida. She serves as the 2016–2017 vice president of member services for the University of Florida PRSSA Chapter. Jordan can often be found drinking iced coffee, talking about her dogs or volunteering at a local Gainesville elementary school.