The Psychology of Social Media and How it Changes Lives

Full Text of the Look Up YouTube Video

“Look Up” by Gary Turk

I have 422 friends, yet I am lonely.
I speak to all of them every day, yet none of them really know me.
The problem I have sits in the spaces between
Looking into their eyes, or at a name on a screen.

I took a step back and opened my eyes,
I looked around and realised,
That this media we call social is anything but
When we open our computers and it’s our doors we shut

All this technology we have, it’s just an illusion
Community companionship, a sense of inclusion
But when you step away from this device of delusion
You awaken to see a world of confusion.

A world where we’re slaves to the technology we mastered
Where information gets sold by some rich greedy bastard
A world of self interest, self image and self promotion
Where we all share our best bits but, leave out the emotion.

We’re at our most happy with an experience we share,
But is it the same if no-one is there?
Be there for your friends and they’ll be there too,
But no-one will be if a group message will do.

We edit and exaggerate, crave adulation
We pretend not to notice the social isolation
We put our words into order and tint our lives a-glistening
We don’t even know if anyone is listening

Being alone isn’t a problem let me just emphasize
If you read a book, paint a picture, or do some exercise
You’re being productive and present, not reserved and recluse
You’re being awake and attentive and putting your time to good use

So when you’re in public, and you start to feel alone
Put your hands behind your head, step away from the phone
You don’t need to stare at the menu, or at your contact list
Just talk to one another, learn to co-exist.

I can’t stand to hear the silence of a busy commuter train
When no one want’s to talk for the fear of looking insane.
We’re becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies
To engage with one another, and look into someone’s eyes.

We’re surrounded by children, who since they were born,
Have watched us living like robots, who now think it’s the norm.
It’s not very likely you’ll make world’s greatest dad,
If you can’t entertain a child without using an iPad

When I was a child, I’d never be home
Be out with my friends, on our bikes we’d roam
I’d wear holes on my trainers, and graze up my knees
We’d build our own clubhouse, high up in the trees

Now the park’s so quiet, it gives me a chill
See no children outside and the swings hanging still.
There’s no skipping, no hopscotch, no church and no steeple
We’re a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people.

So look up from your phone, shut down the display
Take in your surroundings, make the most of today
Just one real connection is all it can take
To show you the difference that being there can make.

Be there in the moment, that she gives you the look
That you remember forever as when love overtook
The time she first held your hand, or first kissed your lips
The time you first disagreed but you still love her to bits

The time you don’t have to tell hundreds of what you’ve just done
Because you want to share this moment with just this one
The time you sell your computer, so you can buy a ring
For the girl of your dreams, who is now the real thing.

The time you want to start a family, and the moment when
You first hold your little girl, and get to fall in love again.
The time she keeps you up at night, and all you want is rest
And the time you wipe away the tears as your baby flees the nest.

The time your baby girl returns, with a boy for you to hold
And the time he calls you granddad and makes you feel real old.

The time you’ve taken all you’ve made, just by giving life attention.
And how you’re glad you didn’t waste it, by looking down at some invention.

The time you hold your wife’s hand, sit down beside her bed,
You tell her that you love her and lay a kiss upon her head.
She then whispers to you quietly as her heart gives a final beat
That she’s lucky she got stopped by that lost boy in the street.

But none of these times ever happened, you never had any of this.
When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss.

So look up from your phone, shut down those displays
We have a final act existence, a set number of days
Don’t waste your life getting caught in the net,
As when the end comes nothing’s worse than regret.

I’m guilty too of being part of this machine,
This digital world, we are heard but not seen.
Where we type as we talk, and we read as we chat
Where we spend hours together without making eye contact

So don’t give into a life where you follow the hype
Give people your love, don’t give them your ‘like’
Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined
Go out into the world, leave distractions behind.

Look up from your phone. Shut down that display. Stop watching this video. Live life the real way.

Five Minutes of Truth

Why Do People Care So Much?

Why I Quit Facebook

How Leaving Facebook Changed Me

Five Minutes of Truth

After receiving this video in a text from a high school buddy I hesitated to click the link. Remember those days of AIM when you would click a link and it would take over your browser and the audio was something obscene? Don’t get me wrong, I trust this particular friend but you never know what some of these videos are; especially with spam these days. When I saw the title of the YouTube video was “Look Up” I knew it was worthy of my time.

The first sentence of the video hit me harder than Katrina hit Louisiana. Over the last six months I have debated the personal value of social media. While volunteering at Carol Woods retirement community I see individuals that have lived great lives having never been on the Internet. Most of these retirees don’t even have a cell phone nor do they want one. My great friend Lois always laughs when I tell her how many “followers” I have on Google Plus. The first time I told her she quickly asked, “Do you know all of them?”

I thought about it a moment and replied, “No, I only know a handful.” Her response was, “So, what does it matter?” At that moment I released just how detrimental social media can be. Anna Cantwell wrote the article The Psychology of Instagram recently and her first hand knowledge, while being a college student, puts it all in perspective. Social media users really do care about the number of likes they receive on a photo or status update. So much so that they are willing to go to great lengths to get more likes. Heck, you can by an extension rod for your smartphone or GoPro to enhance that selfie.

the-psychology-of-social-media

Photo Credit

Why Do People Care So Much?

I absolutely love human behavior and psychology. Over the last two and a half years it has been my goal to consume as much social media behavior as possible. I spent countless hours building a presence on social networks like Google Plus, Twitter and Pinterest with one of my main objectives being to see how people reacted to certain situations and shares of content. What I found was truly amazing. Social media users care about things that really do not matter in real life. They care so much that it affects their relationships and actions.

If you don’t believe me, go out to eat at a restaurant tonight and ask the nearest individual under 25 years of age how many followers they have on Instagram. They will know to the exact number. “487. And I got 246 likes on my last photo!” It is important to note that this type of psychology is not limited to just high school and college kids. It has expanded to adults as well. Here is another test. Contact a woman that has a child between the ages of 1 and 16 and ask her what she does before, during and after dinner. If she says anything besides “looking at Facebook” she is not telling the complete truth.

So, why do people care so much? What does it matter if a Facebook post received 47 likes? Why does it matter that you have 895 Twitter followers when your friends only have 500? Why are people spending so much time looking at their smartphones when they could be smiling at those around them? Comfort. The world can be a lonely place and the best way for these individuals to be surrounded by people that “like” them is through their smartphone and social media accounts.

Notice that I said people that “like” them, not love them. A large percentage of social media users use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as an outlet to get attention. One of the most comforting feelings as a human being is to get attention from others. If humans cannot get attention in the real world they can get it through their second life online, which is now social media. The most prevalent of these outlets is Facebook. This is the social network where everyone is, right? Nope, not this guy and here is why.

Why I Quit Facebook

In February of 2010 I made the decision to quit Facebook for good. Much like the smoker that goes back to the cigarettes I had been on and off Facebook for several years. I would quit for a few months and then go right back. When I was in high school and college I made fun of those couples that would break up for a few days yet always get back together. Here I was doing the same thing. How did I have the testicular fortitude to finally quit Facebook for good in February of 2010? I decided to leave my comfort zone.

As mentioned before, comfort is very important to most people. There is a reason that over 60% of Americans live within one hour of the area in which they grew up and attended high school. Unfortunately, this type of mindset limits the opportunity for growth. When I was in high school I made the personal decision to move five hours away from home. When I was a junior in college I picked up all my belongings and drove to Montana for a summer. When I was a young business professional I uprooted my life in Raleigh to start anew in Chapel Hill; knowing not a single person in the quaint southern college town.

These were decisions that would have almost killed some people. Can you imagine moving to a town in which you do not know anyone? And you are going to do this without having a Facebook account?! You are crazy! Well, I can admit that I have my bag of issues but I also know that growth happens when I leave my comfort zone. Each subsequent decision has made me a stronger and better person. For that, I am grateful.

So, what does this have to do with some random guy leaving Facebook for good? Having the ability to let go of something means you are going to be uncomfortable. This uncomfortable environment may last two days, two months or even two years. Most of you reading this have probably had your heart broken; some a few times. One of the worst feelings I have ever felt is not being able to sleep, eat or even smile because of an aching heart. That said, after it heals over you are often a much stronger person that better understands what you want in life.

In February of 2010 I was miserable. I was making more money than I could spend but I was allowing others to affect my happiness. Those that know me know that I have a very obsessive personality. When I do something I go balls to the wall or not at all. It is very difficult for me to simply grace the surface of something I enjoy. I go buy that country club membership and play golf four times a week. I go purchase a Nikon D5200 and take hundreds of HDR photos on any given weekend. I completely consume the sport of lacrosse to better understand the strategy. As I said, I have my bag of issues.

During those early months in 2010 I was allowing Facebook users to affect my happiness. It is funny that just recently a study came out explaining that in 2012 Facebook manipulated the posts you were seeing to adjust your mood. I guess you could say I saw that coming several years in advance. When I noticed that my well being was affected by usernames and social media accounts I knew it was time for a change. Why were Facebook updates about George Bush and the financial crisis causing me to sink into a depressive state? I was making tons of money so why was the subprime mortgage and credit crisis the reason for my unease? Facebook.

What many people may not realize is that you don’t think about something until it is presented to you. If I had not had a Facebook account I would have never thought about relationships, politics and religion during that time. I would have never gotten heated about the way a particular church was spending money in Cary, North Carolina. I would likely have not even known the name Ken Lewis and why he was ousted as the Bank of America CEO. Honestly, I didn’t need to know that stuff as it did not affect my life. Sadly, it was thrust upon me on Facebook.

After a few months of unhappiness I decided it was time for a change. The only way I was going to remove myself from these conversations was to not see them at all. Remember that obsessive personality. I was able to walk away from Facebook and can honestly say it was for the better. I may have missed a few political and religious debates. I may have been a little bit late to see a viral video. I have completely missed the BuzzFeed explosion. All in all, I can say I have been just fine without it.

How Leaving Facebook Changed Me

I missed all those fun and exciting BuzzFeed quizzes and Cat memes but what I did not miss out on was that amazing trip to Vegas. I also didn’t miss out on over 400 rounds of golf in the last several years. I didn’t miss those “interesting” phone calls to mom and dad. I sure as hell didn’t miss out on the time UNC beat Duke and the students rushed Franklin Street. I didn’t miss going to Pinehurst to watch a practice round at the 2014 US Open. I didn’t miss volunteering at Carol Woods retirement community and meeting Dorrie Prouty and Lois Frost.

I could sit on Facebook and watch from afar. I could find out where all the events¬†are and “check in”. I could look at my phone every time I am walking down Franklin Street or watching a game at the Dean Smith Center. I choose not to. I choose to look up and enjoy everything that life has to offer. Although the younger generation may think I am “weird” and “unusual” for loving to talk and chat up anyone that walks by, I consider it normal. In fact, I absolutely love my life because I am living my life. I don’t have a second life online. When you meet me in person I am the exact same person that is sarcastic and funny on Twitter and Google Plus. I am that exact same shitty golfer that makes humorous Vines of his terrible swing. I am that guy that won’t shut the fuck up because he has too much to say. But you know what, I am out there, Jerry, and I am loving every minute of it. I would encourage you to do the same.


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[…] Full Text of the Look Up YouTube Video “Look Up” by Gary Turk I have 422 friends, yet I am lonely. I speak to all of them every day, yet none of them really know me. The problem I have sits in the spaces between Looking into their eyes, or at a name on a screen. I took a step back and opened my eyes, I looked around and realised, That this media we call social is anything but When we open our computers and it’s our doors we shut All this technology we have, it’s just an illusion… Read more »

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