Being disconnected in a connected world

CINCINNATI - CINCINNATI - Is it time to put the phone down and look someone in the eye? Maybe sign off Facebook?

If this sounds like absolute horror to you – keep reading, because researchers are finding out that we are so “connected” that we're really disconnected.

In the article "Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults," researchers make the argument that even a little additional human contact can affect the way you feel about yourself.

But are people willing to do that?

On Fountain Square on Friday, there was music and plenty of sunshine. There were also plenty of people ignoring both and staring at their phones, even when they had company.

"I don't think people realize they’re doing it. They're so used to having (a cellphone) in their hand or being on a computer," said Kristina Bolte.

Bolte said she understands this phenomenon because she lives it.

"I am attached to (my cellphone) and I am surprised it's not on the table right now. So I'm guilty, just as everyone else is, I think," she said.

Jeannette Bush has two phones – and even uses them simultaneously. But even she draws the line at some point.

That point? When she’s on a date.

"I think that's very rude. When you're on a date with someone and you're out to dinner, don't pull out your phone!"

She refuses to cross that line, and has a few other rules she thinks other people should live by. One of those is keeping cellphones, tablets and iPods out of the hands of little kids.

Melissa and John Feldmeier have two children and feel pressure to give them the powerful and often consuming technology that’s so prevalent in our society.

The couple is worried about Christmas and what their children’s requests will be.

"They are going to ask Santa for phones this year and we don't think they should have them yet," Melissa said.

Will Melissa and her husband win out? That's up in the air, but Jeff Blevins believes they need to stand firm. It's in the best of their children, he believes.

Blevins is the head of the University of Cincinnati Journalism Department. He believes all the engrossment in our online lives makes us, what he calls, “alone together.”

"We're sharing physical space, but yet we're kind of alone in our own minds or alone with our own devices," he said.

This is the case even when we’re “together” on Facebook or other forms of social media.

The new study in the journal Plos One  seems to confirm those findings. Its data shows that people who spend a considerable amount of time on social networking sites are more prone to be sad.

"They're simply comparing each other in terms of social status or achievement or in some cases, happiness. 'You have a new dog, isn't that great? I don't,'" Blevins said.

The study suggests we thrive on real, person-to-person interaction. It’s not a lost art, certainly, but being without social media of any sort sometimes makes a person an odd man out. It's a definite balancing act. 

What do you think? What are your experiences with social media? Do you ever find yourself pulling away from human interaction in favor of social media?

You can read more about the journal article at the following link:  http://ow.ly/o0J6H

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