Is it a new trend?
If you think that social media and online communication appeared only in the 21st century, then you are completely wrong. The first email was already sent back in 1971 by pioneering American computer engineer Ray Tomilson. After in 1986 Listserv (automated mailing list manager) was introduced, which meant that it was possible for users to reach multiple quantities of people, through sending just one email. For us right now it is a regular thing, but previously it was a revolutionary idea. Later on, the first social media sites Six Degrees and Friendster appeared, respectively in 1996 and 2002. Both of them are not really known and not any more on the market, but they played a huge role in social media formation. Further significant phase took place with the launch of such media giants as Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), WhatsApp (2009) and Instagram (2010) and it continues to grow and develop.
Since 2010, just in 8 years, the number of social media users increased by 3.5 times, reaching 2,62 billion in 2018 and this number is expected to rise to over 3 billion in 2019. During those years Facebook remains the most popular social media platform for private communication and businesses. On average, people have 7.6 social media accounts. As of May 2019, the number of internet users reached 4.4 billion, that is more than half of the worldwide population (7.7 billion). As some studies suggest the six degrees’ separation rule is not applicable and nowadays can be changed by 4 degrees which stays that on the average number of acquaintances separating any two people on the Earth only four people. It also means that we know and meet more people than ever before, another research claims that most of the people will meet around 80,000 people during their lives (life expectancy is 78,3 years old). However, most of them we met only once in life, but then can be connected online, and this means that we should adjust to new challenges and conditions of modern communication.
Rules of netiquette
Recently, I was absent in the “virtual world” for 2-3 weeks because of my project in a remote area with a bad internet connection. Before going there, I warned my family and all close friends about that, but when was replying afterward I was still saying sorry for not doing this earlier as some of them already started to worry about me.
This thing I am observing more and more often in my behaviour and others with whom I cannot meet because of the huge distances as we are all living in different countries and even continents. However, I cannot understand why we should apologize for late respond if nothing urgent happens or it is not the message to arrange the meeting. Thus, after this case I developed for myself rules of Internet etiquette that are appropriate and don’t influence other people in a negative way:
1. Real people always take priority – when you are meeting with someone and checking your phone, typing or watching some videos that are impolite and rude towards your real friend or acquaintance!
2. Respect people's privacy - do not send or post pictures of others without asking, share their accounts or private data, such as an address, telephone number etc.
3. Group conversations: share messages, photos and videos that are relevant for all members or at least for the majority, otherwise it is really annoying.
4. Give and take some time to reply – yes, the chats are instant, but it doesn’t mean if the person is online she/he is obliged to reply promptly.
5. Related to the previous point – take your time but do not ignore person, as you may create the phenomenon known as ghosting.
6. Be honest and brave and if you wouldn't say something to someone's face, don't say it online.
7. Don't make a "friend" if you really don’t want to stay in touch with this person, then "unfriend" people later on.
8. Notice how much time you spend every day just texting (the last time it took me 2 hours!!!) and think what else can be done instead.
Benefits and drawbacks of online chatting
Taking into consideration the previous paragraph, I would like to point out that with modern technologies (social media sites/apps) we received a lot of advantages and valuable opportunities:
- it is a ‘place’ to meet new people and keep in touch with your friends regardless of the physical borders of the countries;
- users can find and join groups of people who are sharing the same hobbies and interests;
- a large network of job opportunities at some specialized forums or platforms are provided:
- fast track to the news without censure or other implications.
Nevertheless, for me personally, the disadvantages are more visible, among them:
1. Physical health – often you may gain back and/or neck pain, eye strain, higher risk of cardiovascular issues and obesity, additional stress that can be resulted in the pure quality of sleep etc.
2. Mental health – addiction to the constant checking is a high possibility, a rising level of anxiety, swings of the mood. Furthermore, appearance or complications of depression, constant feeling of loneliness, the negative impact on the self-esteem after checking the pictures and comparison your life with others.
3. Social life and relationship - the probability to be prone to bullying, exposure to inappropriate material, higher risk of identity theft or fraud, risk of becoming a victim of online pressures, "fear of missing out" some significant events of your friends and so on.
Of course, everything written above is pretty debatable and needs extra scientific research and proof, but some of the proven figures are quite warning for me, like that users spend on average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networks and/or messaging!
Do you need a digital detox?
Taking into consideration all the possible negative factors of social media, it's essential to understand your own limits and learn when to take a small break or maybe stop for a longer time. If you have already realised that, then it is possible that you need a digital detox. The aim of digital detoxification is to reduce stress, disincentives and compulsive behaviour associated with excessive use of technology. Furthermore, it is a deliberate process of absolute or conditional abstention from some (or all) of the technologies that are available in your life for a certain period of time to restore balance and therefore general well-being.
There are different signs, which show that you require digital detox and as well the various forms of it. For instance, immersion; periodic (daily or weekly detox regimen); incremental (selective); destination; a content fast. Thus, everyone can find something suitable for him or her. Frankly speaking, that won’t be an easy way. Though, if you are concerned and conscious about it, the results you will receive are priceless, for example, a better posture and level of sleep and, moreover, your mind will be more clear and focused.
To sum up, I would say that it is also wrong to put all the fault of our problems on the social media, as we are benefiting a lot from them as well, especially with our quick access to the information life. The most essential, as for me, to stay prudent of what you are doing and try to find a proper balance that is suitable for your lifestyle!