Social media fast sheds light on interactions

I always have my cellphone on me. I’ve never ignored a text message – though I have forgotten to respond to a few – and unless it’s a really busy day, I’ve been checking in to Foursquare religiously since I signed up three years ago.

Instead of reading the newspaper in the morning, I find myself scrolling through my Twitter feed to read the news of the day. I tweet and retweet interesting articles, and when I’m not reading, I’m sending silly Snapchats to my friends. I regularly post photos to Instagram and Facebook, and I must admit I get really excited when I get more than 10 “likes” on anything I post.

I can’t say I like spending this much time with my phone, though my behavior indicates otherwise. During winter break, I caught up with a friend from high school, and she talked about her experience spending a semester away from Facebook.

I decided to follow in her footsteps and make my big disconnect during the two week trip my family planned to Europe over winter break.

I wanted to go for the extreme form of disconnection, so I attempted a digital detox. In the end, I ended up deleting my applications for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. I kept my Foursquare and WhatsApp applications active. I had to check in across the globe – any avid Foursquare user would understand that one doesn’t simply give up the chance to collect so many points.

I thought the task of surrendering participation on four social media accounts would be easy – but my family made it difficult. Any time we’d arrive at a restaurant or hotel with Wi-Fi, all eight of my family members would take out their cellphones and connect to any of the social media networks I’d forbidden for myself.

Although I found it difficult, I did feel like I communicated with the people I was spending my time with more effectively, and I enjoyed focusing solely on my family.

Though I decided to end my hiatus from social media a day earlier than I had planned, I do believe that a detox is beneficial for shaping relationships and practicing more effective communication.

I appreciated the benefits that my absence from social media provided me with, but my fear of missing out surpasses my desire to connect with more people than those I surround myself with at any given moment. I like to feel like I’m a part of something larger.

Even so, I stand by Albert Einstein’s statement. “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” It’s still not that severe, but we shouldn’t let it get to that point. Put down your phone every once in a while and enjoy the company you’re around.

Stephanie Parra is a senior majoring in journalism and political science.