Why Do We Need Social Networks?
Can a modern person get by without social networks? Yes, of course. After all, there are still people who do not have an electronic mailbox and who do not use mobile phones. The more so, why do they need social networks? If you are satisfied with communication with real people around you, if you are not a public person, and if your line of work is not related to the need to attract constant attention to your persona, then you can sleep soundly. I say it almost without irony.
However, there are other situations. For several years I visited a woman who lived in the center of Moscow, heard her confessions, and gave Communion to her. We had long conversations: she was a very interesting person. Quite often she told me that various disputes and misunderstandings arise when communicating on Facebook and other social networks. “If it makes life so difficult, is it worth constantly being online and writing something?” I thought, and sometimes said out loud. To which she replied, “It is the only way I socialize: I do not leave the house. At the same time, some of my friends have accounts only on LiveJournal, Facebook, or VKontakte. So, I have to be on different social networks”.
Could it be that you cannot leave the house, meanwhile being a very sociable person? Are you curious about people from different cities and countries? Do you like to chat after the long day at work, or, on the contrary, to discuss some deep, serious, and exciting topics? Then social networking is your faithful companion, it is your guide to the united world without national borders.
Moreover, social networking now is one of the most convenient and effective tools for customer acquisition. If you are a real estate agent, a tutor, a psychologist, a life coach, etc., then it is only logical to look for buyers of your services among your followers. Write about yourself, about your job, your life: you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Waste of Time and Addiction
However, we must admit that it is far from always that we use social networks for a reason or at least deliberately. Sometimes we catch ourselves thinking that we just look through the friend-feed for no reason, constantly refresh it, reread our and others’ posts and comments… I will be honest: while I was writing this text, I surfed Facebook a dozen of times, both on my computer, in front of which I am sitting right now, and on my phone lying next to me. Clearly, this is not normal, at least because I lose control over my behavior and over how and on what I spend my time.
What can be done about this addiction?
It is very crucial to be aware of the problem. Yes, both I and other social networks’ users will continue sinking into them, and then wonder: how long have I been here? what am I doing here? Yet still, it is quite possible to increase one’s awareness while using social networks with a certain perseverance and resourcefulness. Let the questions mentioned above stop being rhetorical.
“How long have I been here?”: it is truly interesting. It is possible to estimate: ten minutes? twenty? an hour? Write this time down somewhere in a notebook and do it every time you manage to snap out of Facebook or VKontakte.
“What am I doing here?” is also a very good question. Was I here for a reason? Did I decide to read friends’ posts? Did I just need to goof around? Whatever it was, even the last option is not that bad as long as we realize this: yes, I am tired, right now, it is one of the few available ways of relaxation. I will slack off for half an hour, and then I will get to work. However, if half an hour turns into two or three hours, then you should ask another question:
“What am I running away from?”: it is better to address this issue in conversations with a psychologist. Although trying writing exercises is also an option: make a list of topics and questions that need to be sorted out and write down your answers and arguments on your own.
My overall conclusion may sound banal: there is merit in acting consciously. Determine when exactly you will be on social networks during the day. You should understand how much time you want and can spend on it. Make a list of serious and trivial matters that you are going to attend to on Facebook or VKontakte.
Then, hopefully, there will be time to read paper (or electronic) books. Perhaps then there will be place in your life for meetings with friends and relatives. It is entirely possible that being on social networks will become more fruitful and productive.
Social Networks and Spiritual Life
As for the spiritual life, it is unlikely that social networks themselves will somehow interfere with it. As someone once said, a spiritual life is a life of Spirit in us. Well, at least a life of our spirit. Besides, which is probably the same, it is an ability to be all by yourself, to listen to your soul, and at the same time not to dwell on the past or worry about the future events. Simply put, an ability to be here and now.
Obviously, social networking is one of those things that steers us away from ourselves. However, two decades ago there were no social networks, but there were computer games. Before that there were cards. Moreover, at all times a person could freeze sitting on a stool, start staring at one point, and allow the mind to dwell upon the past or the future: anywhere, but only as far away from oneself as possible.
Nonetheless, you can do it differently. Sit on that very stool (or a chair), straighten your back, put your hands on your knees, take a deep breath, breathe out, and clear your mind of thoughts. Listen to your breath, feel your body. You live. You are in the present. The present is another name for eternity. You can be all alone at least for a couple of minutes. Alone with God. That is wonderful.
I wish everyone a deeper acquaintance with their own selves. If social networks can help you with it somehow, well, so much the better!
Translated by Julia Frolova