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Last month our colleague Dr. Mark Light wrote an article about digital minimalism and encouraged us to take a 30-day digital decluttering challenge. Like Mark, I made the decision to delete the Facebook app from my phone this past year, and I have to say I don’t miss it! I was finding that for me, the stress and frustration I experience when I see political banter and misinformation circulating social media outweighs the joy of sharing personal photos, experiences, and updates on a regular basis. I now check Facebook about once a week from a browser to make sure I’m not missing any major life updates from close friends and family, but it is no longer part of my daily life. In doing so, I have found a way to personally practice digital minimalism – “a philosophy of technology use” from Cal Newport “in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

While this approach has worked for me, I recognize that not everyone may be ready to take such drastic actions as deleting social media apps from devices, even if they feel the urge to do some digital detoxing. In fact, some experts acknowledge that it may not be realistic to completely “break up” with social media. Chris Stedman, author of IRL: Finding realness, meaning and belonging in our digital lives, says “if we’re going to have a healthier relationship with social media, we’ve got to stop thinking of it as a mindless activity and start thinking of it as a meaningful one with the potential to reveal certain truths about ourselves.”

gardening gloves weeding a garden

Doing regular self-reflection and decluttering, much like a gardener would regularly check on and weed their garden space, can help you enjoy and find meaning in your social media use. For example, rather than endlessly scrolling through a social media feed, you might choose to stop regularly and assess what emotions are evoked by the content you’re reading. Does your social media use bring you joy and amusement, or does it leave you feeling anxious, discouraged, or frustrated? If the latter, you may do some decluttering by choosing to unfollow certain people or accounts. Taking regular breaks from social media can also be helpful. These are not permanent break-ups, but more like sabbaticals or vacations to disconnect and see life from a different perspective.

Whether you choose to become a digital minimalist or to simply do some digital decluttering, I encourage you to consider how digital detoxing could benefit you today.

Sources:

Aina, M. (2021). Glued to your phone? Here’s how to rethink your relationship with social media. NPR Life Kit. https://www.npr.org/2021/07/16/1016854764/social-media-balance-relationship-boundaries

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County.

Reviewed by Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

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a computer with a reload icon that reads "reset"

With a year of COVID behind us, we found that not being able to have face to face meetings and events forced us into more digital means of connecting. Youth experienced online school, employees worked from home, and even our entertainment and socialization involved technology – and all of this technology in our homes caused a digital fatigue. While there was somewhat of a reprieve in the summer, our smartphones still kept us digitally connected.

In September 2020, I discovered a book by Cal Newport, a Computer Science Faculty member at Georgetown University, called Digital Minimalism. He defines digital minimalism as “a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else”. Ironically, even though he teaches Computer Science, he has never been on social media. The other interesting thing I found was that he authored this book pre-Covid. Even though I enjoy technology and like to stay up on the latest digital gadgets, I was already feeling the fatigue of being attached to my phone 24/7. I decided to take his 30-day digital decluttering challenge consisting of three steps:

  1. Define your technology rules and limit your technology use
  2. Take a 30-day break from a specific technology, i.e., social media
  3. Reintroduce technology slowly

I decided to take a 30 day break from Facebook, which for those who know me is a challenging thing to do, as I have been on Facebook for 15 years. On October 4, I deleted the app off my devices and told my co-workers I would not be on Facebook for a month. While not intentional, my 30-day experiment ended the day after the Presidential election, so the biggest joy that I had was not having to see all the political banter. Overall, I only felt I missed two things while I was not on Facebook for 30 days: my daughter’s senior pictures that the photographer posted, and her senior night volleyball pictures, which my wife showed me on her phone. Prior to this experiment I was spending two hours a day on Facebook, or 1/12 of my day, or essentially one month of each year!

Cal Newport shares other ways of continuing in digital minimalism after completing the initial 30-day challenge, such as deleting apps on your phone that you frequent the most. I never put the Facebook app back on my phone after last November, and I now have to log in to a web browser to see Facebook. This extra step makes it harder to connect and I do not log on too frequently. Ultimately, most of us remember a time when we survived without being connected 24/7. I encourage you to set your own 30-day digital minimalism challenge, and then keep exploring ways to reduce your technology use and “happily miss out on everything else”.

Sources:

Alevizou, G. (2020). Virtual schooling, Covid-gogy and digital fatigue. Parenting for a Digital Future. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/parenting4digitalfuture/2020/04/08/virtual-schooling-covid-gogy/

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Mark D. Light, Ph.D., Leader, Ohio 4-H STEM & Digital Engagement Innovations

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

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Father taking photo of daughter playing in snow.

Think about what you share about yourself on social media. Do you make sure there are no photos of yourself with alcohol in hand? Maybe you only share photos from times you feel put together. How do you react when someone “tags” you in an unflattering or embarrassing photo? It is your right to choose what is shared on your social media.

Now consider what you share about your children on social media. Sharenting is a term used to describe an oversharing of information about children on social media. For the first time, young people are growing up to find they have an online presence they had no say in creating. In the United States 92% of two-year-old children already have an online presence and about one-third of these children were first introduced to the online world as newborns.

There are many benefits to parents sharing about their children on social media. Parents can share their pride in their child’s accomplishments or share photos with distant loved ones. Sharing parenting experiences with friends and family can help parents feel supported. However, sharing on social media creates lasting impacts that can follow a child throughout their life. Understanding that while most parents have their child’s best interest in mind, many have not considered how their social media presence can impact their child’s wellbeing and safety. Before sharing about children on social media there are some things you may want to consider:

  1. Your privacy settings on your social media sites.

Many social media sites have options that allow users to limit who sees different posts shared. Often users can limit posts to social media friends, or those users designate as close friends. Consider making your settings more private on posts that contain photos or information about children. Also know that people can save things you share and re-share them without your permission.

  1. Is there anyone you would not want to have this information about your child?

If the answer is yes, reconsider sharing the information. Examples of information you may want to reconsider sharing include, full name, birth-date, school name, home address, location of child, or phone number. Try looking up yourself or your child online, you may be surprised how much information already exists.

  1. Would you be OK if others used this photo without your permission?

While sharing a photo of children in the pool or bathtub may be cute and seem harmless, understand that others who can view the photo can use it for something else you may not approve of. One study found that almost half of all photos found on a pedophile sharing site were originally shared by parents on social media or blogs.

  1. Could your child be embarrassed about what is shared?  

The reality is, one day, your child will likely see what has been shared about them on social media. When I google myself, one of the photos that results is an unflattering photo of me in 9th grade. I wish that this photo could be removed, but it continues to follow me online. Before posting something online consider if you want it to be part of your child’s online presence. Other examples include information disclosed about a child’s diagnosis, behavioral issues, or criminal history that could follow them into adulthood.

  1. Are you willing to give your child the opportunity to “veto” what is shared?

In a study that surveyed youth 10 to 17-years-old what their parents shared on social media, it found that most of the youth preferred when the information shared was positive.  They did not like their parents sharing photos that they deemed unflattering, too personal, or highlighted the negative. Chances are you want your child to be viewed as well-behaved, smart, and happy- is what you’re posting supporting that goal?

Taking time to protect children’s online presence can be as simple as taking a moment to consider “would I want this shared if it were about me?” Having a conversation with older children, like the one modeled in this video, could also be a good step toward better understanding between family members as well as better online safety. 


Written by: Courtney Woelfl, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Cuyahoga County.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Sources:

Minkus, T., Liu, K., & Ross, K. W. (2015). Children Seen But Not Heard. Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on World Wide Web – WWW 15. doi: 10.1145/2736277.2741124

Moser, C., Chen, T., & Schoenebeck, S. Y. (2017). Parents? and Children?s Preferences about Parents Sharing about Children on Social Media. Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI 17. doi: 10.1145/3025453.3025587

Steinberg, S. B. (2017). Sharenting: Children’s privacy in the age of social media. Emory Law Journal, 66(4), 839-884.

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cellphone3I recently had an opportunity to dine out with some friends. As we talked and caught up with each other, I noticed just about everyone else in the restaurant was on their phones. Families were sitting together, but not talking to each other. They were too busy checking their cell phones.  Most never bothered to look at each other until their meal was served.  It struck me as extremely sad that our society has begun to lose the art of conversation.  Technology has taken over.  Relationships will begin to suffer.

Do you check your phone first thing in the morning? Do you check it every hour?  Have you ever looked at the clock and realized you’ve spent over an hour surfing the internet, reading twitter posts or pinning in Pinterest?  Have you checked your phone while having a conversation with a family member?   If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your life is being hacked by your technology!  Social media is a huge part of our everyday lives.  It helps connect long lost family members and old high school friends, but it has also become a big distraction.

A recent study found that for every time you get distracted, it takes on average 25 minutes to get refocused.   Distractions consume close to 2.5 hours of productivity daily.  That is 17.5 hours a week and 70 hours a month!  What could you do with an extra 70 hours every single month??

It’s time to take back your life. How can you make that happen? Utilize some of the following suggestions:

  • Do not check your cell phone first thing in the morning.
  • Turn all cell phones off during meals.
  • Limit your social media times to certain slots of the day.
  • Talk to family members and colleagues. Unplug from technology, listen and communicate.
  • Establish screen-free zones in your home. This could include the dinner table, backyard or bedrooms. It could also be a specified time, such as an hour in the evening before bed.
  • Turn off your notifications on the phone. Keep the essential ones (i.e. phone calls, text messages) but turn off the ones that come from social media and other apps.
  • Don’t take your cell phone out during time with your family, friends or a date with your spouse.

Engage, be mindful and enjoy your family time!

Written by: Beth Stefura, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Mahoning County

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Erie County

References:

https://extension.psu.edu/shopby/daniel-francis-perkins,-ph-d–chris-houser

https://www.psychologytoday.com/…/how-cellphone-use-can-disconnect-your-relationships

 

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