By Serena Lin
My first day back home for spring break, my phone decided to surprise me. For unknown reasons, it would not turn on and remained stuck, flashing the words “Samsung Galaxy Note 4” and not loading the home screen. As an extremely anxious person, I had to solve this problem immediately, knowing that I would be meeting my friends at the theme park California Adventure the next day. Luckily, I had my old phone, which essentially could only text and call, stored in a drawer.
This unexpected difficulty turned out to be a blessing, because it helped me to recognize how much I don’t need my phone. My time at California Adventure flew by, and the time I spent waiting in lines with my friends, rather than being awkward, was instead filled with more light conversation. Keeping my phone away also seemed to inspire this behavior in the people around me.
This also happened to coincide with a period of time within my life when I had decided to abandon social media forms that did not involve direct contact. This meant that I deleted Instagram and Facebook off my phone even before it broke, but kept Snapchat and Messenger around. This combination of situations led me to recognize more successful ways to use social media effectively.
For one, many people often try to cut social media out in all sorts of ways because it can be an immense distraction, which I can definitely agree with. This realization came from deleting Facebook off my phone, but my muscle memory continued to unlock my phone out of habit, expecting to click an app that wasn’t there. After about a week or so, I learned to break this habit, and I realized that I was only missing the occasional meme or new profile picture.
When I told my brother that I had cut out social media, he laughed at me, because we had been consistently messaging on Messenger. However, I have found that my most consistent usage utilizes direct communication platforms because of their ability to build up relationships in a more private and personal manner. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, 41 percent of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner because of online or text message conversations. When studying relationship communication through messaging for my PWR paper, this statistic solidified my idea about messaging’s ability to successfully develop relationships. As someone in the young adult age group, after using social media for the past few years, I have found that direct communication is the most efficient and rewarding aspect of social media.
These direct communication platforms manifest themselves in the form of Snapchat and Messenger for me. While they may seem quite different, the ability to send things directly to people reminds how intentionally someone is thinking of you. This mimics how I would naturally speak to someone directly or send them a picture of something that had been happening throughout my day.
Other platforms such as Facebook or Instagram differ greatly from how I naturally interact with people. I would compare those platforms to getting up in front of a large group of people and presenting a photo or stating something on my mind, which rarely happens to me. Furthermore, I have long come to realize that Facebook stalking anyone, whether it be a friend or a stranger, doesn’t build the relationship, even though it might end up taking up your time. Everyone utilizes social media differently, and finding the perfect balance can be hard, but being mindful of usage and how it contributes to each relationship allows for a more successful relationship with our phones.
Contact Serena Lin at serenal ‘at’ stanford.edu.