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  • Writer's picture Julia Weinzettl

Meet in real life - enjoy the benefits of social media

The Internet began with a vision to connect people who were living far away from each other.

It allowed us to participate across distances with many people at once actively. It's incredible how we can use the Internet to find a long-lost friend, connect with people who share common interests, find out about our friends or families' lives that live far away, get the latest news around the world, and share news to get a reaction from our friends.

We've come to rely on our smartphones to keep connected with the world at all times. The people who are not connected online sometimes seem even alien or like grandparents, too old to use technology.

Yet deleting social media has become a trend for one to reflect on oneself and have time for self-growth without the pressures of comparison. It seems that many people are exhausted by the constant influx of information.

Despite the obvious benefits of technology, it can do the opposite of the original intention. It can disconnect us from the real world by making us too busy, caring about people we hardly know or about things that may not be true. And that means we spend less time caring about things that actually matter. Social media can help us to communicate and enhance our lives, but using it as a substitute for face-to-face and physical interaction can lead to the opposite:

It can give us an excuse to avoid confronting reality by substituting it with a distorted version of it that attracts "likes," and it can prevent us from building positive and meaningful relationships.

To reflect on the healthiness of your social media usage MIT (all tips on MIT News) developed nine tips:

1. Support a healthy online community. Before you comment, ask yourself "Is it true?", "Is it necessary?" and "Is it kind?" (Inspired by a quote from Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet.)

2. Live in the moment. It's ok to capture that amazing sunset, but don't forget to enjoy it, too.

3. Relating instead of comparing. Mindfully ask yourself if you are comparing or relating to somebody.

4. Follow people and things that bring you joy.

5. Keep things IRL (In Real Life). Prioritize time spent with friends and family over time spent scrolling through social media.

6. Start your day intentionally, by avoiding getting a social media update first thing in the morning.

7. Make RSVP to events accessible to people who are not on social media, as well.

8. Practice digital detox and support others in doing so.

9. Don't struggle alone. If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, attention problems, make an appointment to talk to someone who can help you.

Relationships spark our creativity, help us land jobs, teach us things we'd never learn on our own, and, frankly, make life more interesting.

The smartphone should not be a substitute for real-life interaction but a way to find real-life interaction. Just like how you don't use your GPS to imagine going from A to B, but to actually get from A to B. It should only be a starting point for building meaningful relationships and gaining real-life experience in private as well as in professional circumstances.

Easier said than done, though. Odds are you won't just randomly bump into the people you want to meet on the street. Even if you attend all the right events, restaurants, bars for private purposes or conferences for professional networking you'll still have to try hard to meet the right people.

And yet, meeting new people and building a strong network is one of the best ways to advance your personal and professional life. At best make your networks drivers according to your interests. As Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas write in Harvard Business Review:

“The executives who consistently rank in the top 20% of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks - made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy.”

Finding and then connecting to the right people is a needful task, one that can help to improve your life. The responsible usage of all kinds of apps, depending on your interest, can make this task drastically easy. While there are several apps for business contacts, dating or meeting people according to the fields of your interest or sports it's important to keep in mind:

Technology only facilitates these connections, being human and meeting in person is what keeps them alive.

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