Social Media Addiction or Generational Bias?

Are we all just addicted to our phones? To information?

I’ve been reading a lot on this topic lately. It started with reading Christina Crook’s The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World.

We’re all familiar with FOMO, right? FOMO is fear of missing out. We are on FB and Instagram every moment of every day, because we’re afraid if we’re not, we’ll miss something. Well, JOMO (joy of missing out) is the opposite–it’s taking joy in missing out on the digital world, and re-forming alliances with your “real” life.

social media addiction or generational bias

Larry King recently did a whole episode about how our phones are increasing depression and social media addiction.

And yes, I get it. It seems like everywhere I go, I see people walking, eating, waiting in line, with their heads down in their phones. We never have to be alone anymore. Ever. There’s always someone out there on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat that we can connect with. That’s a powerful thing.

But the downside? It’s taking us out of the moment. If we spend all of our time taking photos of flowers, do we ever get to actually enjoy the flowers? If we spend our whole time looking down at our phones, when do we look up and see the beautiful sky or the moon? If we eat dinner at a restaurant, and spend the whole time looking at our phones, do we get a chance to make a connection with another human being?

The information, the technology, the end of loneliness–these are all good things. But are we taking it too far? Are our online relationships replacing real-life relationships? Is all that information too much for us to process, causing us to feel overwhelmed? Are all those perfect pretty instagrams making us feel less worthy, and therefore causing depression?

I don’t know. Maybe.

How much of it is “we don’t understand this. We’ve never been here before. So it must be bad, because it’s not how we were brought up.” In other words, generational bias.

How much of it is fearmongering, to make flashy stories for the media that will sell, or even just plain, old fashioned bull shit?

I’m also reading #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness right now, and there’s a chapter where he talks about parenting:

Worrying that tech will rob them the pleasures of childhood is akin to previous generations worrying their kids will be soft because they have indoor plumbing, or that rock ‘n’ roll will make them degenerates, or that their brains will rot from too much TV. Every generation fears for the next one…

A couple weeks ago, I caught up with some friends that I’d not seen IRL in about a year. We had a great conversation over lunch about all kinds of things. But you know what we didn’t have to talk about? Boring, menial stuff, like what their new home was like, how their jobs were, what grade the kids were in. Because I knew all that already. From Facebook. Furthermore, without the Facebook connection, I may not have even had the guts to connect with them IRL, because I may have let that relationship go so long that I’d be embarrassed to ask them if they wanted to hang out.

Did we take selfies of the moment and photos of our grilled cheeses? Yeah. But we also talked about some pretty deep and interesting things.

So, I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I love my phone. It’s a fantastic tool. It keeps me in touch with work, friends, and my son. Maybe sometimes I spend too much time on there. But sometimes I don’t. I go for a walk or ride my bike or go to yoga. Sometimes when I’m waiting in line at Costco or drinking a coffee at Starbucks, I do absolutely nothing. Just think. About stuff.

I don’t think it has to be one or the other–a restriction of how much time we spend OR spending all our time on there. There’s a middle ground, and it’s simply about being mindful. For me, where we start to get into trouble is when we mindlessly reach for our phones to distract us instead of dealing with what’s at hand: loneliness, unhappiness, or dissatisfaction. In that case, no, it’s not the right choice. Although social networks can be a source of support for you if you are struggling or going through a crisis.

Okay, enough from me. I could go on all day about this. What about you? Do you think “social media addiction” is a thing? Or just generational bias? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 2

  1. My thoughts are that at one time, we used to communicate to others through writing, pen to paper, and a system was derived to deliver those messages. Then the telephone was invented and revolutionized how we communicate with people, and writing became thing of the past. I can imagine folks were judged on whether they preferred writing notes or calling just as today with regard to social media and texting (what happened to just calling people). As I see it, we have just gone back to writing as a way to communicate and interact with people. I think the social aspect will have to catch up as we develop social parameters and manners, but also develop a tolerance for the sea of opinions we come across. That was the long answer, but in short, while I think that social media can have an element of addiction for some, I think it has so quickly become the standard to communicate, find information, make decisions, entertain, and check the news or weather, I can understand that those that do not use it only see overuse of this medium. When they stop printing newspapers and magazines, we will see that it was generational and not so much fear mongering, but more fear of change.

  2. I think the increasing tendency of people to reach for their phones to look for reviews before venturing to a new restaurant, supporting a new brand or buying tickets to an event are all completely valid. The nature of people to become addicted to their social media might be a term that needs to be better defined. I also think this definition will differ by the category of users. For example, someone who works as a marketing coordinator or community engagement clerk needs to be on their social media but “working”.

    The general belief is that too much of most things are bad – life is about finding balance. I don’t know that it’s fair to say we are addicted to social media. It might also be good to question issue of data/results acquisition – without social media now there might not be as many results as there could have been in the eras prior?

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