Connecting through Social Media Eases Stress (Part 2)

Nearly 12 years ago, on May 6, 2005, I joined Facebook. I know–earth-shattering.

Well, I didn’t exactly, but my dormitory’s resident assistant did for me. She said she was signing me up because it would help me meet others on campus and possibly snag a date. I rolled my eyes, but allowed it while I lied on her dormitory floor rummaging through whatever snacks she had stowed away under her bed.

As a broke college kid, you’re willing to exchange your dignity for free food.

Back then, Facebook was only offered to students at colleges and universities. The founder, Mark Zuckerberg, launched the website a year prior in 2004, spurring the phenomenon we’ve come to know as social media.

Admittedly, I did employ Facebook to jump start my college dating life, but I, along with the rest of the nation’s college population, would have never imagined how a network of 1 million users would multiply and connect 1.23 billion daily active users worldwide.

By September 2006, everyone age 13 and older with a valid email address could join. After my first year on Facebook, I stopped using it to initiate blind dates and began searching for past teachers, elementary school friends, neighbors and relatives. A sense of excitement and nostalgia overwhelmed me when I matched a name with a face–a face I hadn’t seen in years.

Over the past decade, my friends’ list has grown from around 50-100 college connections to nearly 800 people I’ve met through networking, befriending, interviewing for stories, or long, lost relatives. Yes, *cringe* I even connected with a couple exes at one point. (Hey, who says you can’t be friends? You know you’re going to stalk them through social media anyway, and bravo for utilizing Facebook or the ‘Gram to its fullest potential.)

It’s hard for me to put into words the impact Facebook has had on my life, but it must be monumental if I can scarcely recollect my life before it. From time to time, I’m sure many of us social networking junkies ask ourselves, “How the hell did I survive before this?” If we misplace or forget our cell phone–BOOM–full-blown panic attack. OK, I may be overexaggerating. No? I didn’t think so. It’s become our sole means of communicating with everyone in and outside of our bubble.

It’s become our world: Liking. Commenting. Direct messaging. Double-tapping. Sharing. Swiping. Snapping.

It’s surreal and a little frightening how rapidly technology is advancing in the 21st century. But I think as long as we understand technology will never successfully duplicate face-to-face interaction–genuine laughter instead of LOL, facial expressions instead of emojis and physical touch instead of a photograph–then a balance can be created.

As a writer, I rely heavily on social media for ideas. I’m instantly bombarded with news–whether in the world or in my friend’s backyard. Whether I’m kicked-back in my office chair watching dog videos or hastily scrolling past those pimple-popping videos (seriously, why do you share these?), I’m typically at ease, relaxed and searching for the next status to make me smile, laugh or warm my heart–or even something that motivates me to act.

Even though there are people who promote negativity through social media, which can easily evoke stress, it is your choice as an individual to subject yourself to it: Restrict. Block. Delete.

I’ve chosen to utilize social media as a tool in furthering my profession and disseminating my writing, educating myself and connecting with those I am unable to see often.

I guess I owe my former resident assistant a thank you. And who knows, I may still have a shot at meeting my potential spouse if I ever RSVP to one these Facebook event reminders. Talk about stressing out an introvert.

-JL Smith

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