I Have a Social Media Problem — And So Do Today’s Kids

How a letter from an old friend reminded me to live in the moment — and made me acknowledge my addiction to social media.

By Liberty McArtor Published on January 24, 2017

The reality hit me recently as I mindlessly sorted through a mammoth stack of mail, and came across a happy sight: Liberty McArtor familiarly scrawled across the front of an envelope, my good friend’s name in the top left corner.

We used to write all the time as kids. Now that we live in different states and hardly ever see each other, we hardly ever write.

Taking a break from credit card offers and expired coupons, I curled into the couch and read as my friend reminisced about some of our favorite past adventures — like stockpiling pine cones to use against those yucky boys.

I paused the TV that had been on for background noise. I turned my phone face down. I started writing a reply, fully engaged in our handwritten conversation.

I tend to blaze through life like I’d blazed through the mail, sorting the day’s moments into piles on the floor, but never going back to open them up for the full experience.

Then I realized that this feeling — full engagement — was normal for me during childhood. Whether I was launching pine cones at cootie-carriers or pulling a fresh letter out of the mailbox, I was a master at living in and enjoying the moment. 

Now, I tend to blaze through life like I’d blazed through the mail, sorting the day’s moments into piles on the floor, but never going back to open them up for the full experience.

Life inevitably gets busier when you grow up. But even in my free moments now, something distracts me, keeping me from enjoying a fully engaged life. I’m addicted to social media and technology.

I didn’t think I had that much of a problem. That is, until I noticed how I can’t get through a Netflix episode without scrolling through my smart phone’s Facebook app. Or that I keep checking my phone for notifications in the car, because sitting at a stoplight for a full 30 seconds without something to do is just too boring. Or the fact that I keep finding myself lost in Twitter, with no memory of how I got there, even as I’ve been writing this article!

The Worst Part

Yikes. This is kind of embarrassing. But the good news — or bad — is that I’m far from alone. We’ve become a society that can’t stand to be alone with our own thoughts. The worst part? Today’s children are being raised this way.

The average American kid receives a cell phone at age six. 70 percent of children under 12 use tablets, and 40 percent of 2 to 4-year-olds often hold some type of device. Many kids see their faces through Snapchat filters before they can talk, and are aware of their own presence on social media, via their parents’ posts, years before they ever get their own accounts.

Unlike modern adults, modern kids didn’t forget how to fully engage in and experience life. They never learned how, because they were practically born with a device in their faces.

The benefit of not having a screen to turn to all the time is immeasurable, because it’s boredom that drives creativity and critical thinking.

Because they have a screen to turn to all the time, they’re never bored. Boredom drives creativity and critical thinking. When you’re bored, you and your brain have to find something to do. As someone who was essentially raised as an only child, I got bored a lot, and boredom often preceded my most memorable adventures.

Children need to be bored. It’s during the unscheduled moments of boredom that they have the chance to think, become curious, form opinions, and develop into who they are meant to be. When they always have a screen for entertainment at the slightest whiff of boredom, they lose the chance for such creativity.

Scroll Less, Live More

Technology and social media are becoming exponentially more essential to human functionality, and the risks rise also. For my part, I’m making one last New Year’s Resolution while it’s still January: to experience more life like I experienced my friend’s letter the other day — fully engaged in the moment. Whether I’m writing a letter, stuck at a stoplight or watching a movie, I’ll put my smart phone away and focus on the moment.

I’ve taken the first step and deleted the Facebook app from my smart phone. Prayers appreciated. Because now I’m wondering what’s on Twitter …

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