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Ask Ogonna: Limiting social media use has its benefits

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Have a problem with love or life in general? Send Ogonna your questions at askogonna@gmail.com and get them answered here in her column. You can also tweet her at @askogonna or ask her at ask.fm/askogonna


Reader: Do you think people overshare on social media, or is this openness on social media beneficial for opening important communication lines?

Ogonna: I’ve been playing tug-of-war with social media ever since I got my Twitter account a few years back. Social media is changing the way in which we choose to communicate with one another, and I think it is a very positive medium to explore, but it can easily be taken advantage of for the worse.

If you know me at all, I talk about the concept of storytelling a lot. I believe in the positive power of social media to be this cool platform that allows for us to share stories across the nation or around the globe. Snapchat and Instagram make it easy to highlight important international events, and using audio and visuals allows one to virtually interact with other cultures in a convenient little snapshot. Twitter and Facebook help us share our ideas or experiences with a larger audience, and both can be used as great outlets for emotions or garnering attention to social justice movements. While many virtual fights have occurred from this, I also think some important discussions can be started, and even some perspectives changed.

We run into danger with social media when we don’t understand how its filters and limited capabilities cannot be a substitute for real validation, human interaction or help. It’s important to always be aware of what messages we are sending out and what our expectations are with the results.

Some people use social media as a diary. They want validation of certain emotions or struggles that they are going to (and might very well) receive through friends, family or even strangers. But what happens when you don’t get that validation, or you only focus on the negative responses? You need to be aware that on your own, your feelings, thoughts and experiences matter simply because they do — you don’t need likes or comments to tell you that. And if you only use social media for this, you may fall into the trap of feeling like your self-worth lies in what you filter and post online instead of who you are as a multifaceted individual behind the screen.

What does it say when we are more willing to share our innermost thoughts with social media than we are with our loved ones? This is something even I need to explore more. The feeling of having expressed your emotions to the world (or simply just your Twitter followers) could be just the outlet you need to let go and move on. But sometimes they tell of a deeper struggle that we’re not willing to deal with straight on.

Try deleting your favorite social media apps for a week to see what you learn about yourself and about others. Will you start sharing your feelings more directly with people instead of subtweeting? Will you take fewer selfies?

I deleted Snapchat for 10 days, and this is what happened: My friends thought I was mad at them. People thought I was sick or being antisocial. I skipped so many social events because I primarily Snapchat-stalk what my friends are up to and find a way to get there. But I also gained a lot of positives. I started using my phone less at meals and hangouts, because who needs to know that I’m eating yet another slice of Donatos pizza or watching “High School Musical” for the umpteenth time? I felt more connected to those directly around me. I paid more attention to dates and times if a function was that important to me. I enjoyed the moment instead of spending time thinking of captions and playing with filters. I didn’t miss out, but felt happy with the times I was just by myself because I wasn’t crowded by interacting with others, even if it was just virtually. The most shocking part: I got out of bed an hour earlier because I wasn’t addicted to checking my phone in the morning.

Doing little experiments like this allows you to stay balanced in how much you share with the world, how much you share with others, and how much you keep for yourself. I am all about social sharing, but not everyone needs to know everything about your life. There is something special about keeping some secrets for yourself.

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