Stanescu-Bellu: Let's Connect

Social media isn’t an effective way to maintain friendships.

by Sofia Stanescu-Bellu | 5/23/17 12:20am

The moment I pressed the red "x" button, relief and dread washed over me. For the longest time, I couldn’t bring myself to delete any social media apps from my phone. The “Fear of Missing Out” syndrome always stopped me — what if I missed something important or one of my friends did something that I needed to know about? How would I stay up to date on the latest news happening around the world and on campus? I was conscious of the fact that I spent, or rather wasted, too much time on social media, but I refused to take the first step to address this issue. The breaking point finally came a few weeks ago. I just had enough.

It was the culmination of multiple issues — a failed trip to New York, stressful classes, work, grades and a general unhappiness with the way I was spending my time — that pushed me to purge my phone of some of the apps that I spent the most time on. Similar to what Andrew Sullivan described in his article for the New Yorker, “I Used to Be a Human Being,” I was engaging in a virtual life, never-stopping, always-updating. There was too much information, too much engagement and a detachment from my surroundings.

Even so, I still couldn’t bring myself to delete Snapchat and Facebook — I was afraid of losing friendships over missed snaps and Facebook messages. This fear made me realize how much I depended on these apps to maintain relationships with people. Instead of getting together with someone, I preferred sending a snap and tagging them in a meme on Facebook. Over time, my relationships had became superficial.

In a recent Pew survey, 46 percent of American smartphone owners said that they couldn’t live without their devices. The average person spends almost two hours on social media each day, which adds up to over five years over the course of her lifetime. Two hours. Assuming we’re awake for 14 hours a day, that’s one-seventh of our time spent mindlessly scrolling through our newsfeeds looking for something to distract us from the task at hand.

While it’s easy to point out social media’s flaws, it undoubtedly has some benefits. We can now connect with people anywhere and at anytime. Relationships can be maintained and strengthened by texts, snaps and likes. However, social media should not become, as it did for me, a lazy way to interact with people without making an effort to connect in real life.

As my freshman year comes to a close and I prepare for sophomore year and all the adventures it will undoubtedly have in store, I spend a lot of time reflecting on the friendships I have made. With Dartmouth’s quarter system and fast-paced terms, the people I spent time with fluctuated regularly. With my study abroad program this upcoming fall and some of my friends’ plans to be off in the winter or spring, I might not see some people for an entire year. As this separation gets closer, I have become more appreciative of the moments I do spend with friends outside of social media.

My freshman year also taught me the importance of maintaining friendships. This seems obvious, but it can be easily forgotten in the midst of classes, extracurriculars and the stress that accompanies each term. Social media just isn’t enough. Instead of checking in with your friend over Snapchat, schedule a meal and talk in person. Despite the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, there are so many things that cannot be expressed over a short-lived image. Swallow your pride and make an effort to reach out.

Relish the time you spend with your friends and build long, lasting friendships that can endure the term system and beyond. At the end of the day, you’ll remember the deep conversations you’ve had over lunch so much more than the memes you’ve tagged them in on Facebook.