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There are important questions we should all be asking ourselves about the influence social media has on our lives. That’s why I’ve pulled together a few short, entertaining videos to get us thinking and talking.

Facebook Is An Anti-Social Network.

YouTube creator Prince Ea has a talent for rhyme, but what I really want to talk about here is the substance of his poetry: Does technology drive us further apart?

Is Facebook an ‘anti-social network’? Do you use it because you like to, or because you feel you have to? Have you ever tried to quit Facebook 4 Reasons We'll Never Really Want To Give Up Facebook 4 Reasons We'll Never Really Want To Give Up Facebook Facebook is changing human psychology. And that's why it's going to stay with us. For a very long time. Read More , and how did it go?

My own brother ‘quits’ Facebook whenever his schoolwork starts to get heavy, and I (and two of his friends on separate occasions) have actually asked him, “But how will I share links/articles/videos you should see?” I suppose I could just send them by email, but it feels like a lot of trouble (and it doesn’t come with handy preview text and a thumbnail).

What about the idea that technology has made us more selfish and separate than ever before? With innovations like crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that fund community projects that would otherwise never exist These Crowdfunded Films Only Exist Thanks To Their Backers [Stuff to Watch] These Crowdfunded Films Only Exist Thanks To Their Backers [Stuff to Watch] Read More , and micro-investing sites like Kiva Loans that let ordinary people promote social good around the world Kiva: Chage Lives By Lending Money To Other People Kiva: Chage Lives By Lending Money To Other People Read More , and tools like Skype that let us see and talk to far away relatives, I don’t buy that technology really makes us more selfish and separate. It makes our introspective moments more visible, especially when we’re on social media while in public. 

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Technology gives us the power to connect with or help virtually anybody on Earth, but we spend a lot of time idly looking at Facebook. We all have stories of getting the latest updates in our friend’s lives through Facebook rather than in person, or staring at our smartphones instead of engaging with the people right beside us. Are you one of those people? Why do you do it? Do you enjoy it, or is it just a bad habit you wish you could stop?

I don’t think you need to abandon your smartphones completely to get more out of life, but I do think you’ll have pleasant results if you consciously choose to resist documenting a moment, in favour of experiencing it more fully. The next time you have a beautiful meal, ask yourself how often you actually go back through your food photography 5 Nuggets of Smartphone Photography Wisdom To Live By 5 Nuggets of Smartphone Photography Wisdom To Live By When it comes to smartphone photography, we try to cover a bit of everything here at MakeUseOf. Sometimes though, among the sea of apps and accessories, social networks and hashtags, the essence photography can get... Read More and thought the image did justice to the original dish. Then keep your smartphone stowed away, and just dig in.

Your Friends’ Lives: Maybe Not So Great.

This video manages to be funny and depressing simultaneously. Let’s take a moment to look at it a bit closer though: depression and mental health Depression & The Internet: Welcome To Your Temporary Support Group Depression & The Internet: Welcome To Your Temporary Support Group Talking is important, and sometimes the Internet is a good substitute when your real life friends aren't around. Here are three sites I recommend for less formal depression-focused conversations. Read More is a serious issue, with suicide being the fourth leading cause of death in people between 15 and 65 years of age. Or, as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention put it, more deaths than war, murder, and natural disasters combined.

Facebook itself ran an experiment to find out if emotions on social media were ‘contagious’ How Do You Feel About Being In Facebook's Psych Experiment? [Weekly Facebook Tips] How Do You Feel About Being In Facebook's Psych Experiment? [Weekly Facebook Tips] You've probably heard about the latest scandal from the Facebook world: Facebook has been experimenting on users and playing with their emotions. Yes, really. Read More . For a week in 2012, Facebook sent some users either exclusively negative or positive posts, to see if it would affect their mood. It did.

Do social media sites like Facebook exacerbate depression? Do you get jealous when your Facebook news feed seems to be filled with people having great life adventures? Do you frame your own life on Facebook in the most positive way you can, or perhaps just not post when you don’t have great news to share? I know I tend to avoid posting the bad news in my life. I like to think that’s better than ‘vaguebooking What Is The Imbecilic Art Of Vaguebooking? What Is The Imbecilic Art Of Vaguebooking? You may not have heard of the term Vaguebooking, but I can guarantee you will have seen at least one example of it in action. Certainly if you're active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any... Read More ‘.

Facebook isn’t going away any time soon though – in fact, we’ve also got some great reasons for teenagers to get Facebook Look Up Makes Social Media Look Bad, But Is It? [Weekly Facebook Tips] Look Up Makes Social Media Look Bad, But Is It? [Weekly Facebook Tips] You've probably seen the schmatlzy poem reminding us all to Look Up. The video is breeding a sort of anti-social-media hatred, but is it really warranted? Read More , in spite of the fears that it leads to maladjusted teens and missed opportunities.

We Miss Things With Our Heads Down.

We’re looking at our smartphones because we think they offer us something worth our attention – and we do that many times a day. According to Mary Meeker & Liang Wu’s KPCB Internet Trends report of 2013 (slide 52), we check our smartphones about 150 times per day.

Does the average person get value out of the majority of those ~150 times you check your phone? How often are you seeing something that’s really worth the time you spent to check? How much time do you spend not even looking at anything in particular, just looking at apps absentmindedly, or refreshing Facebook just to see if there’s anything new? If you have trouble with that and use Chrome, you might want to consider installing Facebook Nanny Facebook Nanny: Restricts Your Facebook Usage Unless You Have New Notifications [Chrome] Facebook Nanny: Restricts Your Facebook Usage Unless You Have New Notifications [Chrome] Read More .

Are those notifications even any good 5 Facebook Notifications That I Can't Stand [Opinion] 5 Facebook Notifications That I Can't Stand [Opinion] We recently talked about an easy way to clear up email notifications, but that doesn't mean Facebook notifications themselves aren't still a problem. These notifications are great when they actually pertain to you and are... Read More ?

My colleague Justin Pot finds the Look Up video problematic Your Gadgets Don't Control You: The Problem With "Look Up" [Opinion] Your Gadgets Don't Control You: The Problem With "Look Up" [Opinion] Smartphones aren't making us dumb; social networks aren't making us antisocial. Technology is a tool, and it's time we stopped blaming it for our problems and took responsibility for our digital habits. Read More  because your gadgets don’t control you. But to me, the point of Look Up isn’t that your gadget controls you, it’s that every time you check your phone there’s an opportunity cost, and it’s not negligible. The objects in your life are not neutral. They’re designed to be used in particular ways, and the value we perceive from those objects mean we give them certain kinds of attention.

Could that moment you spend looking at Facebook instead of looking up be life-changing? Maybe, maybe not. Just think consciously about how you use your gadgets from time to time – it’s healthy. And try to remember to look up often, and put your phone down when it counts. Not necessarily because you’ll miss the chance to meet the love of your life – but at least to avoid the dangers of texting while walking.

Texting Can Kill You.

Cute video, eh? It’s no joke though. In case you’re not aware, distracted-walking is a growing area of concern in public health, so bad that texting-and-walking even has its own new word: wexting.

Wexting has been causing significant increases in pedestrian injuries and deaths every year. According to Dietrich Jehle, professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo in New York, distracted walking results in more injuries per mile than distracted driving. As many as ten percent of the tens of thousands of emergency-room visits by pedestrians in the United States may have been caused by cellphone-related accidents.

So, are you a ‘wexter’, and would you be surprised to learn there’s an app for that? A group in Vancouver, Canada is using geo-fencing technology (a geo-fence is a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area) to send alerts to texters when they cross certain high-traffic intersections in the city.

It’s an interesting solution, and maybe it will help some chronic ‘wexters’ to wake up and reconsider their decision to walk and text. What do you think? Is it possible for a technology-driven solution to get us out of a technology-created problem? Do you walk and text, and if so, do you think a reminder received ‘in the moment’ will convince you to put your phone down and keep your head up?

Final Thoughts: Social Media Matters. A Lot.

I want to end on the above video to contrast the first four. Maybe you think social media isn’t such a big deal. Maybe you barely use it, maybe you don’t see what all the fuss is about.

But the facts are clear: social media matters. It’s no fad, it’s not going away.

Increasingly we rely on social media tools like Facebook’s Graph Search 6 Cool Things You Can Find With Facebook's New Graph Search Features [Weekly Facebook Tips] 6 Cool Things You Can Find With Facebook's New Graph Search Features [Weekly Facebook Tips] Facebook has just given its graph search another boost, and those who have been upgraded are now able to search post history as well as photo history. What is it good for? Read More  to explore the web and make decisions about what to look at or purchase. The Internet marketer’s domain is not just in SEO tactics, it’s in creating advertising on Facebook The Facebook Marketing Guide The Facebook Marketing Guide Anyone trying to market a business knows that they need to “get a Facebook presence” because “Facebook is huge”. That’s great, but how do you get started? Read More  with shareability in mind, in the form of sponsored posts. As a form of advertising, it has a low barrier to entry (you can place ads yourself with mere pocket change), and can be highly targeted.

Business cares about the social media platforms because we spend a lot of time there, and we let our guard down around it. Sponsored posts get so integrated with social media it often doesn’t even feel like advertising, so we usually let it go by without a fuss. Even Tumblr integrates sponsored posts Tumblr Brings Sponsored Posts To Its iOS & Android Apps [Updates] Tumblr Brings Sponsored Posts To Its iOS & Android Apps [Updates] Popular microblogging platform Tumblr announced yesterday that it's now serving ads on its iPhone and Android apps. This move comes a year after Tumblr initially allowed ads to appear on its Web interface. These ads... Read More . (Though if you really hate them, AdBlock Plus can stop Sponsored Posts Adblock Plus Now Blocks Non-Ad Annoyances In Facebook Adblock Plus Now Blocks Non-Ad Annoyances In Facebook Adblock Plus has launched a new option where you can customize your Facebook page to remove many “annoying” elements. Read More ). 

What’s more, we don’t just passively look at ads, but we actively share and engage with them – to the point that marketers don’t just track the cost-per-impression of ads and the cost-per-click, but they’ll keep track of ‘cost per engagement’ – such as your Likes, Comments, and Shares. Those actions send our opinions of the brands and products around to our friends, potentially influencing their opinions.

Social media shapes the way we think about brands and products, and for better or for worse, we use it as a shortcut for getting to know people as well.

Whether you agree or disagree, don’t take social media lightly. Your business, your friendships, your relationships, your health, and even your life could be at stake. Let us know what you think about the messages of these videos in the comments.

  1. Jessica
    November 6, 2014 at 3:34 am

    Dragonmouth, Facebook is still a great way to share interesting things with friends. It is only shallow if you let it be the only way you connect with the people you love.

  2. dragonmouth
    October 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    "Have you ever tried to quit Facebook, and how did it go? "
    No, I never started it and I do not miss it. And please do not tell me to try it before rejecting it. Following that logic, we should all try crack and heroin. From what I have observed Facebook is like crack and heroing - addictive and hard to quit.

    While Facebook allows us instant contact with almost anybody in the world, it also isolates us from each other. Humans need actual face to face, physical contact with each other. No matter how much Facebook contact(s) we have, they are sterile because we are still alone. It's like being separated from your boy/girl friend. No matter how much time you spend talking to them on the phone, once you hang up, you are still alone.

    • Jessica C
      October 27, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      Dragonmouth,

      I think it's important to try social media because it does have a powerful ability to connect you with people whom you otherwise might not have the time or energy to in real life. Is that worthless? Whenever people dismiss social media out of hand I have to ask if they're just being radical/reactionary. Not being on Facebook is the new not owning a TV.

      Sure Facebook isn't an ideal means of communication, but remember, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    • Guy
      October 27, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      Oh Dragonmouth, you crack me up sometimes.

      "Following that logic, we should all try crack and heroin. "
      I just get a mental picture of some junkie say, "Hey, you wanna 8-ball? Ice? Firefox?"

    • dragonmouth
      October 27, 2014 at 11:15 pm

      "Whenever people dismiss social media out of hand I have to ask if they’re just being radical/reactionary."
      Whenever people dismiss anything out of hand, including opposing opinions, you need to ask if they are just being radical/reactionary.

      " Not being on Facebook is the new not owning a TV."
      That is a very apt analogy. Vast majority of Facebook is as shallow and puerile as the vast majority of TV. Facebook is a reality show.

      "remember, the perfect is the enemy of the good."
      And quantity is the enemy of quality.
      "If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." - Anatole France, French novelist

  3. Waeel
    October 26, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    we are live in virtual life :(

    • Jessica C
      October 27, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Waeel, sometimes it does seem that way. Make some time to get outdoors, and we'll all be okay I think.

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