“What with Facebooking, texting, Instagramming and Tweeting, never have lives less lived been more chronicled.” — Dennis Miller

Like me, have you ever been a victim of phubbing? Or maybe you’ve actually done the phubbing. That’s what teens do when they want to snub someone next to them by looking down at their phone.

Adults may not choose this snubbing approach consciously. Instead it may happen during that awkward moment of silence in a group or when the conversation gets so boring that we whip out the smart phone to start mindlessly scrolling and swiping as if the internet wisdom we seek is more important than the company we keep.

Or while dining out, how often have you looked across to the next table and saw a foursome, silently going at it on their phones while ignoring each other — even while eating? Phubbing.

How ironic that we call it social media.

Before you blow me off as nothing more than another old coot who just doesn’t get it, hold on a minute. Having an app that can create facetime instantly with friends and family, whether living next door or in faraway cities, is truly one of those modern marvels that can bring us joy and a connection that otherwise would be impossible. But as with anything we enjoy, sometimes it leads to excess and a very real addiction that could even affect our mental health.

The internet and social media are not just American phenomena. Far from it. According to a January 2022 edition of Global Digital Reports on the We Are Social website, there are now 4.95 billion global internet users, 62.5% of the world’s total population, grown by more than 192 million new users just this past year. Of that are 4.62 billion global social media users.

Now let’s talk about usage. GWI.com’s latest data say the “typical” global internet user spends almost 7 hours per day using the internet across all devices. If the average person sleeps 7-8 hours a day, that means we users average more than 40% of our waking hours online. Of that, about 2½ hours are spent on social media. Compare that in the U.S. to the 3 hours, 20 minutes on average watching TV (broadcast + streaming).

Pausing for a little self-reflection, how do we internet users measure up to this average? Let’s see ... 16-17 waking hours minus 7 for the internet and about 3½ hours on TV.

Makes one wonder how much time is left in the day to actually have meaningful face-to-face encounters with significant others, much less casual run-ins with strangers.

Surely, we’re not among those poor souls. Unless we start adding up the time we spend with all those apps one by one. How many in the Top 7 Worldwide Rankings do you subscribe to? 1. Facebook, 2. YouTube, 3. Whatsapp, 4. Instagram, 5. wechat, 6. TikTok (believe it or not, more than half of all American adults are TikTok users) and 7. Facebook Messenger. Oddly enough, in spite of its notoriety in the news, Twitter isn’t even listed in the Top 10.

Still not convinced that you’re addicted? See how you score on these 10 warning signs. With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, “You know you’re a social media rubberneck if ...”

1. Your phone is the first and the last thing you see every day;

2. Social media is your No. 1 news source;

3. You immediately check your phone when you hear the notification sound;

4. You’d rather text than talk. Saves time;

5. You feel drained after catching up on Instagram at the end of the day, only to find that it actually took you 45 minutes to scroll through;

6. You have a lot of “friends” but you still feel lonely;

7. Having to make decisions makes you anxious;

8. You have a low tolerance for people who don’t think like you;

9. Your Tweet responses are out of sequence. It’s not “Fire, Ready, Aim”;

10. Chronic neck pains from long head tilts over your mobile device.

Young persons have social challenges, too. Far worse than phubbing. They face a distorted view of reality by having to constantly navigate through privacy issues, cyber-bullying, sexting, revenge porn, gambling and worse. Author and Professor Tim Elmore says there are a number of warning signs that tell you if they’ve spent too much time on social media or their mobile devices in general:

1. Withdrawing from face-to-face social interactions;

2. Consistent anxiety, stress or feeling overwhelmed by normal routines;

3. Grades begin to slip and assignments reflect poor work or are left undone;

4. Avoidance of real life responsibilities, such as chores or homework;

5. Ill at ease, ill-equipped or unresponsive to people in front of them;

6. Phones begin to create conflict in their closest relationships.

You deserve a break today.

A new social media study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Bath (UK), published their findings this month. The experiment was to compare the effects of a group of young adult internet users who took a one-week break from social media to a similar group who continued using the internet without interruption. The goal was to see if there was any difference in their behavior.

“(The) study found that asking people to take a one-week break from SM led to significant improvements in well-being, depression, and anxiety.”

If some of the social media rubberneck questions strike a chord and you sometimes feel depressed, anxious or angry, trying skipping that dose of Prozac and skip the social media for a few hours instead. Take a pause, take a walk, take a reality check, hug a friend and Message me in the morning.

Will Thault is a retired southwest Georgia businessman. His columns appear Sundays in The Albany Herald.

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