Hundreds of Friends, No Friendships; A Call For A Social Media Sabbatical

A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies

– Aristotle.

It is an empowering feeling when we make a deep and meaningful connection with another person- someone whom you recognize as part of your tribe. There is an almost instantaneous mutual understanding; we can confide in these people, and trust them with most intimate details of our lives. These are the people we can truly relax and be ourselves around, who understand and accept us for who we are- the people we turn to during our darkest days, and the first ones we call on to raise a glass with during our greatest accomplishments. These are the people who inspire us to be the very best version of ourselves; we laugh together, cry together, live as one.

A single soul, dwelling in two bodies.

In today’s social media driven world, our ability to form meaningful and lasting relationships with people is deteriorating. Is social media actually healthy for society? Is it beneficial for young people to use social media? I’m not so sure.

Some time ago I took the decision to delete my online social media accounts, and I received some interesting reactions from certain people in my social circle. Some were shocked, others concerned. People actually thought there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was depressed or sick, or I was just being weird. Others congratulated me as if it was a feat of great strength, saying how they would never be able to do it.

There are many reasons why I decided to break free from the shackles of social media, but mostly, I found it to be detrimental to my relationships and my general well-being, while bringing on unnecessary anxiety, peer pressure and stress. Not to mention, it was a huge waste of time.

The depth of information that people share nowadays is vast and although a lot of it is useless, harmless, cringe worthy nonsense, sometimes you come across posts that can be harmful, disturbing and/or intrusive.

Old classmates, childhood friends, old girlfriends, distant relatives, even complete strangers, make up some of the many hundreds of ‘friends’ in our network. Through social media you know absolutely everything about these people; you’ve been inside their home without ever stepping foot inside the door, you’ve been to their wedding without an invitation, you’ve gone with them on holiday, you’ve watched their children grow, you’ve seen them at concerts that you haven’t been to, you’ve met their new boyfriend or girlfriend, you share in their problems, apprehensions, successes and failures.

You’ve shared in these peoples most intimate moments and you’ve seen them at their most vulnerable, you’ve voyaged with them through important stages of their lives, and yet, if you saw them on the street would you even stop to say hello?

Some of the most memorable moments in life come from meeting new people and making new friends, but social networks are holding us back significantly in this regard. They create a barrier when we meet new people. Instead of starting a conversation with someone, we would rather look for their profile online and message them. How often have you gone to a party, or gone out for coffee or drinks with friends, and you see everyone immersed in their smartphones, rather than enjoying each other’s company. These websites restrict creativity and encourage procrastination, and can even be damaging to one’s confidence and general happiness. These social network sites are, by their very nature, grossly antisocial.

One can only stand to benefit from if not separating themselves, then at least distancing themselves from social media, thus improving all aspects of their lives; physical and mental health, happiness, relationships, work, studies and everything else in between.

Shut down your laptop, turn off your tablet, put your phone away, and get out there! Say hello to a stranger. Ask that crush out for coffee. Try something new- step outside your comfort zone,. Love and cherish your family and friends and let them know daily how much you appreciate them. Strengthen and nurture your relationships, and take the first steps towards building some new ones.

Patrick Hyland documents his journey of self-discovery in The Irish Introvert, a self-development website which was created to help inspire, motivate and educate, through the sharing of significant experiences, and reflections upon life defining moments. He writes as a means of providing an outlet for his inner world.

You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.