Based on disease modeling, some really smart sciencey folks from Princeton are predicting that Facebook will lose approximately 80% of its users by 2017.

Now, that prediction is based off the premise that social media sites behave like diseases and viruses.  Scientifically, it makes sense:

  • Social media usage is adopted (contracted) quickly as people are exposed to it
  • Social media sites evolve throughout their life cycles to in order to spread more quickly, retain users, and last longer
  • Social media sites die out as they reach maximum exposure, if everyone is “infected” a disease has nowhere else to go and loses users to newer sites.

But, I have to chuckle at the social commentary… Social Media = Disease.

Is social media a cultural disease?  What’s it doing to us?

Social Media kills the moment

I can’t explain it any better than this video…


We’ve become so obsessed with electronic connections that we’re missing out on life.

Social media kills empathy

Social media allows, and arguably, encourages people to be selfish, self-centered, and superficial.  We’ve stopped thinking about others and are focused on ourselves.  From bullying to rudeness, to exaggerated comments, we all say things online that we wouldn’t say in real life because we have the freedom of anonymity.

Most of us would never tell someone to their face what we say online.  But combine my desire to be heard, my selfishness, and my lack of empathy for whoever I’m interacting with and you have some ugly comments.  It’s hard to remember that the user name we bashing is a real person.  We don’t think about the impact we can have on someone as we sit behind a keyboard making ourselves feel better about ourselves, feeling smart and powerful.  I’ve definitely gotten involved in some ugly online discussions.  I’ve tried to put some anonymous strangers in their place, feeding some egotistical need I had to prove to people that I know more than them.  I’m not proud of it, but in the moment, I was focused on myself, devoid of empathy.  And a world without empathy is a scary place.

Social Media kills relationships

Under the guise of connecting us, social media is isolating us.  Pick any study, from friendships to relationships, they all say that social media has a negative effect on us and the way we interact with others.

Social media provides a superficial connection.  We keep up with our contacts, see what they’re doing, where they’re going, what concert they’re attending, if they had some killer pizza for dinner, blah blah blah.  We feel connected.  But we aren’t connected.

We need real, in person interactions.  Social media tricks us into thinking we get that throughout the day at the tap of a screen.  We lay in bed at night, check out what our pixely friends were up to today, then say goodnight to everyone and no one all at the same time.

Social Media kills healthy self image

According to social media, everyone else has the most incredible life ever.  Travel, concerts, new restaurants, cute kids, new jobs, sporting events and the list goes on and on and on.   Our lives suck in comparison to the lives of our friends.

We don’t see the credit card bill the month following the trip.  We don’t see the stress that was endured before the kid did something cute and the crying and tantrums that happened immediately after.  We don’t see most things.  We see everyone’s best, yet we usually focus on our worst.  It’s really easy to focus on the worst parts of my life.

I heard something a long time ago that has stuck with me – when we compare our lives to the lives of others, we either:

  1. Feel like we don’t measure up and become dissatisfied, jealous, and possibly resentful
  2. Feel like we have a much better life and become prideful and conceited.

Both are bad.

My “Cures” for each Symptom

To live in the moment:  I will PUT THE PHONE DOWN

This is a tough one for me.  I love being connected.  But I’m missing out on so much.  By being connected, I’m completely disconnected.  Nothing happening online is more important than what I’m experiencing in the moment.


Going forward, my goal for my online social life is to inject positivity into the world.  As much as I may want to give into my selfish desires to be rude or popular or funny by being mean to another person, I want to make people feel good.

To maintain relationships:  I will MAKE TIME TO GROW FRIENDSHIPS

I will schedule time to hang out with friends.  Maybe it’s a lunch on the first Thursday of every month or a standing game night, whatever it is; I want to make growing in person relationships a priority.

To maintain a healthy self image:  I will MEASURE MY LIFE BASED ON MY GOALS

I don’t know how my friends afford their nice homes and cars.  I don’t know how my friends raised the most perfectly behaved children I’ve ever seen.  But that’s their life, not mine.  I have to live my life the best I can and I can’t do that if I’m focusing on their lives.

Having said all that…

There are plenty of positives to social media: spreading new ideas, serving as a platform for social change (debatable, I’ll write about this later), raising awareness for a good cause, and increasing freedom of speech throughout the world to names a few.

Is social media a cultural disease weakening our society?  Or has it strengthened our society?  Let me know what you think.  I’m really interested in what our culture will look like in 5 years.  How will we interact?

We all deal with social media differently.  Plenty of people have a good balance in their lives, and to those of you I tip my cap.  If you’re like me, then you have room for improvement.

May you soak up every drop of life this week, finding joy and happiness where you least expect it.

Phil Kennedy