Could You Disconnect?...It May be for the Best

By KBJR News 1

February 16, 2012 Updated Feb 16, 2012 at 11:54 AM CDT

We currently live in a society where people are constantly tethered to their mobile device--checking in, uploading, and updating frequently.

But as this trend becomes more immersed into our society, there are worries about the physical and psychological implications.

A self-proclaimed frequent user of social media sites, Jonathan Lee of Duluth says, "It's not dependency, but an 'un–necessary reliance'."

He admits that he and others "reliance" on these outlets is something that should be easy to give up.

"If there is anything anyone should be able to live without, it should be Facebook. And Twitter, and Tmblr, and especially Google Plus."

So, he took up the challenge to give up social media for one week.

"Days will pass, I won't have said anything and the world will have gone on without me having believed myself to be clever."

But that sharing of cleverness is only the beginning of what has so many people "addicted" to social media.

Experts and researchers say socializing and connecting with friends and family is the primary use for Facebook and Twitter.

"We find that about 50% of people when they wake up in the morning are going to be checking for tweets, and twitters and Facebook emails and different medias."

In fact, according to the Retrevo Gadgetology Report, about one third of people, especially those under the age of 25, wake up in the middle of the night to check Facebook or Twitter.

A habit that psychologist with the Human Development Center, Dr. David Swenson, says is acting as a substitute for more intimate and detailed interaction.

Swenson says people are replacing interpersonal relationships with virtual relationships. Instead of talking in person, they will text, tweet, and message.

"We're losing I think an awareness of a lot of those facial cues and tonal cues," says Dr. Swenson.

A study completed in 2011 says excessive users of social media lack adequate coping skills, which can spiral into depression and hopelessness.

The same study says they compare themselves to the friend tallies and photos of people looking happy and comparatively feel worse.

And in turn, personal relationships gain a whole new meaning.

"In many cases what it means is we're developing a very superficial understanding of what relationships are."

Not to mention, there are physical implications of being constantly tethered to our computers and mobile devices, as Chiropractor, Dr. Brian Tasky explains.

"They'll finally move after five hours and say, 'oh my, I'm so sore.' Well you're sore because your body is not exactly doing what it is supposed to be and that is going to have long term implications."

Dr. Tasky, lists headaches, shoulder issues, neck and back pain and postural adaptations as symptoms he sees in frequent media users and those who sit at desks frequently.

"Your normal neck curve typically starts to become lost. You get a straight neck, you start to hunch forward."

Dr. Swenson adds sleep problems, irritability, and depression to the list, but says we still haven't taken the research to the next level and proved that immersion in media is the cause.

"It's occurring so quickly that we don't have an opportunity to examine what it's role is and what it's affect is until it comes back to bite us sometimes."

Something experts from both the physical and psychological side we spoke with stressed as a negative impact of high social media use was a rise in the obesity epidemic.

They all also stressed the positive impact social media can have for both physical health and personal relationships. Dr. Tasky said Facebook can be used to form running groups and fitness forums, and Dr. Swenson said it is great for staying connected with friends.

After one week, Jonathan says he doesn't feel much different, but he recognized it as a good experiment, and a time to enjoy the simple things in life.

He even decided to have a long conversation with his parents.

"They thought something was wrong. I'm like, no I just can't use Facebook," says Lee.

And although when he stepped back out into the real world he re–discovered a sense of inner peace, he was thrilled to be able to log back in to virtual reality.

Courtney Godfrey
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