How Social Media Affects Personal Relationships

I have been thinking about a final project in one of my classes for weeks. I’ve started writing about many different topics in multiple forms of presentation. I’ve been interested in them all, but they were all missing one thing: passion. I couldn’t finish a single one because I didn’t have a true passion for the topic. In light of a recent evaluation on my life I have found one thing that resonates through all that I love: relationships. Relationships are my passion! I form relationships every where I go. Relationships with my students, relationships with my co-workers, relationships with my family, relationships with my friends; relationships are important to me. This realization lead me to think about how social media is affecting those relationships. It seemed most fitting that I post my final project here on social media.

My real question about social media and relationships is “does social media cause more harm to relationships than it does good?” Before doing any research on the topic I would venture to guess that I will be able to find arguments on both sides of the debate however, I have a scientific/mathematical brain and I tend to see things in black and white. We’re looking for a majority vote here. Which side of the debate has more information and which has more compelling arguments? I realize that social media also has a purpose for professional use but I will only be exploring the affects on personal relationships.

First let’s get a little background about social media so we know what we’re dealing with. The first true social media site where users had their own personal profiles, used their own names and could invite friends was sixdegrees.com. The basis for the site was that no person is separated by more than six degrees from another. Sixdegrees.com started in 1997 and lasted until 2001. Friendster surfaced in 2002. It was a social media site that promoted your “circle of friends”. Technology changes fast and we are on to Myspace in 2003. The Myspace platform allowed more of a personal vibe with customizable backgrounds and music. In 2004 Facebook launched to college students at Harvard. It wasn’t until 2006 that it opened to the public. Facebook now has 1.44 billion active users and 900,000,000 unique monthly users which makes it the hottest social media site to date. I’m sure that’s not a shock to you! Others in the top 5 include Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google Plus+. To see the stats on the top 15 click here.

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To evaluate how social media is affecting personal relationships we first need to understand who is using it and how. As of January 2014 74% of American adults who are online use social media sites. That’s up from 26% in 2008. The 18-29 age bracket has the highest number of users while the 65+ bracket has the least. The gap between male and female users does vary by social media site but it is typically within ten percentage points. There also isn’t a noticeable gap in race, attained education, annual salary, or geographic area. What does all this mean? All types of people are using their time on social media sites.

Who are people connecting with on social media? According to Pew Research Center 93% of people are connecting with family members and 91% are connecting with current friends. 87% of people say they are connected to friends from their past and an astonishing 39% say they are connected to people they have never met in person. In fact, the median number of Facebook friends is 155 (wildly skewed because some people have thousands of friends while others have created a page strictly to share photos with a few long distance people) and the number of people that are considered actual friends is only 50. While the median numbers might not seem quite right, what we can conclude is that only about one third of people on a friends list are actual friends.

To find some statistics on social media and relationships I found a great site called ProCon.org. This site provides pros and cons for controversial issues and the full write up for social media can be found here. Although the site lists pros and cons for all areas of life, again I am only focusing on relationships. The basic pro to relationships for social media is to promote increased interaction with friends and family while the named cons are prevention of face-to-face time and wasting time on frivolous activity.

Pros for social media include an increasing online communication that strengthens relationships. 52% of teens on social media report that it has helped with relationships with friends. 88% state that social media helps them stay in touch with people they don’t see regularly and 57% say it helps make new friends. Seniors is actually the fastest growing demographic in social media and they report feeling happier and more connected due to online contact with family and friends. Social media also helps people who are shy or socially isolated feel more connected as it is a comfortable place to interact with others. It is also listed that social media helps facilitate face-to-face interaction because messages sent on these sites leads to a meeting. Not gonna lie…that one seems a little far fetched to me. How about we just pick up the phone and ask the friend to lunch!

The cons list on ProCon.org is a little bit longer than the pros list. One of the first cons listed is social media can lead to stress and offline relationship problems. 15% of adult social media users have experienced a friendship end due to a social media site, 12% of adult users state they have experienced a face-to-face argument because of social media and 3% report a physical confrontation due to social media. Another con is that social media is also considered a waste of time. Though I do enjoy a bit of connection and I can be inspired by a quote on Facebook I would have to agree that most of it is a waste of my time. I don’t remember what I read on there and if I was to be completely honest, most of the time I don’t really care. This cartoon sums up it up perfectly:

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Some other cons that were listed include social media and internet usage being correlated with personality and brain disorders. The online phenomenon is creating a space where people have an inability to have in-person conversations, they have an need for instant gratification, they are becoming self-centered (insert the selfie craze) and it is also creating addictive behaviors. “Internet Addiction Disorder” is actually being evaluated for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Social media is also causing people to spend less time interacting face-to-face. 32% of social media users report using these platforms and texting during meals instead of talking to family and friends. This one is on my list of top pet peeves. I even once told a girlfriend that if she was done talking to me at lunch and her phone was more important that we should end the date. Seriously…I’m right in front of you!!!

Of all the statistics on the fabulous Procon.org page I found these two as the most disturbing:

*In July 2012 Americans spent a total of 121.1 BILLION minutes on social media sites. I’m sure that number has drastically increased as we are almost three years out as well. Crazy!

Top disturbing statistic as rated by Nicole:

*10% of people younger than 25 admitted responding to social media and text messages during sex.

WHAT?!? I don’t even want to believe this is true! There are so many things I have to say about this one but I don’t know where to start so maybe that’s my sign that I should just leave it alone. But seriously…if you’re reading and engaged in sexual activity at the same time, that might be a sign that you have a problem. Go ahead and focus on your partner and leave the social media for a different time. The great (and not so great) thing about the internet is that nothing really disappears, it will definitely be here when you are done.

I also found this article from Debra Fileta who is an author and creator of the blog True Love Dates. In the article Debra talks about the impact that social media has on our relationships. Some of the key points include:

*losing our warmth – we are missing out on those smiles (the yellow emoticon smileys just aren’t the same), those winks, and that look in someone’s eyes

*there is nothing more powerful than a real life connection – we hear about skin to skin contact being so important for infants and that doesn’t actually go away. Debra suggests that we are getting so caught up in the digital that we are forgetting the power of the physical

*becoming self-focused – social media is bringing back the self-centeredness of the the world. It’s all about how many likes or retweets we have and we are losing sight of the need to lift others up and be a generous people

*becoming self-absorbed – we are so focused on telling the world who we are and what we are doing that we don’t take time to know the world around us and engage in that

So as expected I was able to find arguments on both sides of the debate. In my opinion the debate on the harm of social media on our personal relationships was greater than the good it caused. Sure I would agree with you if you stated that your best friend or spouse was in the military and social media was the best way to stay in contact or that your grandmother lives 2000 miles away and this is how you can stay connected but as a culture I believe that we have become addicted. We were created to be in relationships with each other and I’m pretty sure that original plan didn’t include commenting on a Tweet or posting about what we had for lunch. Social media is training us to think of ourselves first and foremost and it’s also taking the dedication out of relationships.

We need to be putting our phone away when we’re having dinner. We need to stop posting everything about our day so that we have something to talk about when our spouse comes home or we meet up for happy hour with a friend. We need to hold hands and pat each other on the back. We need to see actual smiles instead of the ones made with characters on a keyboard. Relationships were made to be in person. Online communication lacks the emotion that our heart desires. We are getting so caught up in how much we are getting acknowledged online that we are failing to experience life in the moment.

I should be watching my kiddos play hockey instead of looking at someone else’s vacation photos, I should be having a conversation with my husband in the car instead of looking at my Facebook wall, I should be striking up a conversation with the mom next to me at the playground instead of pinning projects I’ll never do on Pinterest and maybe you should too. I should be doing those things because they will make relationships stronger. The relationships that really matter, the ones that are real and in front of me, the ones that are with the people that I love.

While there is a place for social media in our lives, it shouldn’t have the place that we give it. I challenge you to take a step back and really look at your social media usage and how it might be affecting your relationships. Think about what could happen if you logged off for a while and had a face-to-face conversation with someone. What could an extra 30 minutes a day do for your marriage, your kids, your best friend?

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Why I love Teaching…

Since it is only 2 1/2 weeks until graduation for my preschool class I thought I would take a few minutes to reflect on why I love teaching! Teaching is rewarding in so many ways (excluding financial). It is truly a profession of the heart in my opinion. If you don’t love teaching you are not going to be any good at it. Some jobs allow you to go through the motions and be fairly successful but I don’t really see that to be possible in teaching.

Multiple personalities, multiple abilities, multiple different family backgrounds all melted into one classroom. A classroom in which we must “live” in harmony for an entire nine months! It isn’t always easy…or maybe even ever. It definitely requires passion and patience and flexibility but it offers so much in return.

Last week I was going through some papers that I have saved for an end of the year portfolio and found a perfect example of one of the reasons why I love teaching so much, and teaching preschool specifically. These are the years when you can see the progress made so clearly. From letter recognition to counting and everything in between, there is just so much growth that it is truly amazing. You don’t always notice it in the day to day hustle but when you pull out a paper from the beginning of the year and then you look at their current ability you can’t help but smile and be proud.

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I also love seeing the creativity that the children still have. Too many times I see creativity being squashed by parents, teachers, and schedules. One of my favorite times of the day is free play because my students build incredible things and make up their own rules to old games and express themselves through drawing and other creative arts. I wish I would have taken a photo of the portrait of me that one of my students made a few months ago. It was fun to see how she sees me and also astonishingly creative that she glued a piece of paper to the back to signify my ponytail. How sweet! Here are a couple examples of my favorites from last week:

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There’s no doubt I will miss these children dearly but it will be time to say goodbye soon. September will bring new students and the process will start all over again. I love watching these children grow and couldn’t be more proud of the things they have been able to accomplish this year. It’s not all academic either, some of our biggest accomplishments are not using nonsense words during the lesson and being able to express our feelings when we are upset instead of crying. I strive to be a well rounded teacher and when I see things like these I know I am doing my job!

Field Trip…Festival of Nations Style!

One of the perks of homeschooling is the ability to go on field trips with my kiddos. The public school system (in our area at least) doesn’t really invite parents on field trips and I really enjoy connecting with my kids during those times and sharing the excitement that the community brings. The Festival of Nations was one of my all time favorite field trips so I was over the top excited to share this experience with my family.

Since it was their first time and I wanted to focus on fun and curiosity we didn’t do too much structure but we were able to learn a lot and have a great time. I purchased a passport for each of the kids and we spent most of the day walking around the exhibit area visiting booths for 44 different countries. Even the hubby and I learned a few things, we visited booths for countries we didn’t even know existed. I definitely felt like I needed to brush up on some geography after this trip!

One of the most amazing parts to me was the languages. The Earth is so amazingly diverse! Many of the booths would write your name in their language if you asked and it was so neat to see all of the different ways that writing is used. And sometimes they even told the kids “sorry, we don’t have that name here” which they thought was mind blowing…how could a country not even have their name?!?

We also got to experience something that I am quite certain no one that we know has ever done. We got to witness a Naturalization Ceremony. Living up in the sticks there is almost zero diversity. Everyone I know was born American so to be able to see a group of people become American citizens was pretty cool.

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Of course we also had to try some new foods and play some games from different countries…

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I think this was a real eye opening experience for the kiddos. They see people just like us around home and that’s it so this experience showed them a little taste of what’s happening outside of our bubble. I love the conversations that this trip encouraged and how it showed diversity as a great part of life. We will be venturing out of our bubble a lot more frequently and experiencing more of the world. God made all of us different and it’s time that we learn to embrace that!

A Little Bit of Mommy Guilt

So in case you have been hiding under a rock the past couple weeks…the weather has turned to gorgeous here in Minnesota! I absolutely LOVE the sun!!! It makes me so happy, I can’t even really put in to words how happy the sun makes me feel. The insanely long winters make me love the sun more and more each passing year. I keep trying to convince my hubby that I was supposed to be born in Hawaii and that we need to move there ASAP but so far he hasn’t agreed. (This isn’t something I will give up on easily, maybe one day he’ll get sick of me asking and just go along with it)!

With the arrival of the sun, we have been trying to get outside as much as possible. The boys really never want to come in. I pulled out the patio furniture and we’ve even been doing our homeschool work out there. Since most of my coursework is on the computer I get a little sad when I have an assignment that I have to work on because it usually means I have to go in. If I were to describe our perfect day right now it would be: eat breakfast on the patio, do schoolwork on the patio, eat lunch on the patio, finish schoolwork on the patio, and play in the yard. Then of course we would grill on the patio, watch the sunset on the patio, and well I think you get where I’m going with this!

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The sun also brings out the neighbors! I used to look at this as kind of annoying because our doorbell would be ringing constantly or numerous children would be walking around our yard trying to find the kids. In recent years I’ve now grown to love this part about the sun (especially since my children are getting older and don’t require as much supervision) and I even have some Mommy guilt over how much I enjoy it at times.

I feel a little guilty because I definitely use it to my advantage at times. When the kids are fighting, my new go-to resolution is “go outside”. And when I’m feeling like I need a little time to myself I seem to say “go see if you can play at so and so’s house.”

I love my kids immensely and I’m not trying to pawn them off on someone else but sometimes the winter really wears this Mommy down and I need a break. Sure they can go out in the winter too but that means hearing “it’s too cold” about 5 minutes after they go out and then there’s hanging snowpants all over the entryway to dry and landmines of puddles from wet boots all over. Let’s face it, when your kiddos can go outside in the spring/summer it’s way better than in the winter. WAY less labor intensive and they stay busy for WAY longer.

I may feel a little guilty for using the sun as a temporary “babysitter” once in a while but at the end of the day we all seem a little happier than on those snowy days when we’re cooped up inside. I’ll just grab a handful of chocolate covered blueberries, enjoy a few pages of a good book and all that guilt will quickly fade away. Fresh air is good for them and a chance to be still is good for me!

We have CHICKS!

I’m so grateful to work in a private school. The rules are a little more relaxed than the public school system and we get to do more fun things than the other schools around us have even dreamed of! Case in point: this week we hatched chicks!! I’m still not sure who had more fun; teachers or students, but one thing is for sure, there was no lack of amazement this week.

On Monday morning one of our students’ parents brought in an incubator with 18 eggs in it. Our first lesson was in patience. The chicks were due to hatch on Thursday and that was three days away. The students peeked into the incubator for a couple minutes but when they saw nothing moving they continued about their day. Eggs that aren’t moving are not actually that exciting. Two full days passed by and we still had an incubator full of 18 eggs. I guess that is sort of a miracle in itself because we do have six classes of 3-5 year olds!

Wednesday morning is when the action started. Did you know that you can actually hear the chicks chirping through the shells? It was a little crazy to hear! I checked on the eggs right away in the morning and all I heard was chirping, no visible signs of an impending hatch so I walked down the hall to the bathroom and the next thing I know someone is yelling “it’s coming now!” By the time I got back to the incubator the first chick was part way out of it’s shell! Happy Birthday Sunny!

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We ended up with seven total chicks on Wednesday and every student present that day got to see one hatch. We would lay on our bellies in front of the incubator for unknown amounts of time watching these chicks. If you’ve never seen a chick hatch, as most of us hadn’t, it really is something amazing to see. We talked about how the chick has an egg tooth to help them chip away at the shell. We witnessed the chicks cracking the eggs all the way around the end of the shell and then finally popping out. We watched the eggs roll around and listened to them chirp. We seen the chicks play with each other. We made many different observations about the hatching process and how the chick changes from wet and weak right after hatching to dry, fluffy and strong within a short amount of time. We even predicted how many eggs would actually hatch.

And we had the best quiet time of the year:

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Having this experience was a blessing. Next week we will have the chicks in the sensory table for the children. Obviously this will require constant supervision but I cannot wait to see their faces when they finally get these little fluff balls in their hands!

Oreo Moons

I have found that the way to make my children jump up and down about school is food. Whenever I mention some kind of food being involved in our project their attention peaks and their focus is steady. I must admit, at this point in the school year I’m not above bribing them with Oreos!

After our lesson on the moon I decided to go a little bit deeper into the phases of the moon as this is definitely information that they can immediately apply to real life. I’m not sure if you’ve ever studied the moon phases or not but they can be confusing. Like the fact that when the moon looks like half in the sky it is actually called the quarter moon. Who made this stuff up? Anyway, we’ve been working on the names but it still takes a bit. To help the kiddos remember we made a diagram of the phases. Sun on one side of the paper, Earth in the middle, the phases of the moon all around.

We started out by drawing the sun and Earth and then moved into placing the Oreos. It’s actually quite the art to separate those cookies if you didn’t know already! We constantly had broken cookies that the kiddos were immediately disappointed to learn that they didn’t get to eat. There’s no suckering this Mom!

The moon has 8 phases and they look a little something like this:

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After Oreo placement and discussion came the favorite part. Once they drew the moon on their paper and named it they got to eat that cookie. (What was actually just half of a cookie).

We had a lot of fun with this little project and it was pretty easy (besides separating those cookies). I guess feeding my children is one of the best ways to get them to learn. I’m okay with that 🙂

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I finally figured it out!

Attending college, homeschooling my kiddos and teaching preschool has definitely been an adventure this year. I honestly never really feel caught up. Everything that I do right now resets on Saturday or Monday and then I’m back in it for another week. Another week of papers to write and discussion boards to comment on, another week of teaching preschoolers, another week of lessons for my kiddos; it’s a vicious cycle at times. When I finish my week I am just days, or sometimes even hours, from everything starting all over.

This year my spring break from work and my spring break from college classes happened at different times. In the beginning I thought this was sort of crumby but now I see it as a blessing. My week off of classes I was able to take an extended weekend trip to Napa Valley, California and have a few days to regroup while soaking up some major vitamin D. That trip was just what I needed and I explain why here. Not having to log in and read discussions or make lesson plans for a week was great. Last week I had off of work but still had classes. Taking one of the three education pieces out of my routine was very refreshing.

Since I work on Mondays and all of my classes start their week on Mondays I have always felt like I am running on a treadmill. I love starting my week with 10 smiling faces but it’s so hard to get anywhere in the college world. I hadn’t frequently done much homework on Mondays because I didn’t really feel I had the chance but last week was different. Last week I started my spring break by logging in and making my initial post to all of my discussion boards. What a difference that made in how I felt for the week! The whole week I felt like I hard already checked a major item off of my to-do list and it was SO freeing!

Since I didn’t have to go to work I was able to do all of my assignments earlier in the week and finally get off of that treadmill I had been on. The change in my mental state was amazing and I was much less stressed for the week. Of course I thought this was only because I didn’t have to work and I couldn’t carry this through to the end of the year but I thought it warranted another try this week. Last night after the kiddos went to bed I made time to post to my discussion boards again. This morning when I woke up I was much less stressed than I have been earlier in the semester. I finally figured it out!! Although the semester will be coming to an end soon, I am so grateful to have found my groove in the balance of this crazy life of mine.

I suppose I should have figured this out earlier as my hubby is always talking about doing your biggest to-do of the day first but honestly sometimes I don’t listen to him when I should. Carry this “ah-ha” over into your own life. First make a to-do list so you don’t have to worry about trying to remember the 50 things you need to do in a day. Set your list in a visible spot so you can’t avoid it. Now try to tackle your biggest task first. You will be more focused at the beginning of the week and if your week gets away from you at least you will have your biggest task done and you won’t have to carry it into the new week. Doing this will give you a great sense of accomplishment!

Today is only Tuesday and there’s still time left. Next week you will wish you would have started today.

I did it

Our Peep Experiment

I had spring break this week from work but I didn’t pass that luxury on to my kiddos. While they felt completely cheated that they didn’t get to participate in spring break we did incorporate some pretty fun things into our schedule including a peep experiment in place of our regular science lesson. My objective with this lesson was to go over the steps of the scientific method and also hear some laughs.

I first gave the kiddos an observation sheet and their own peep. I had them draw a picture of their peep in the box provide, measure it, and then make some observations.

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After they were done with that process I told them what the experiment was going to be. PUT THE PEEP IN THE MICROWAVE! My oldest was immediately ecstatic! My middle was sad because she is a future member of PETA and also cares about the rights and well-being of sugar animals, not just breathing animals. My youngest could only spew out the word “explode.” They were now to make their predictions on what would happen when we put the peep in the microwave for 20 seconds.

Each child got to put their own peep in and discretely take it out so the others wouldn’t see. They then drew another picture of their peep, took new measurements and wrote down more observations.

Of course we couldn’t end the experiment without involving all of our senses. The taste test was a favorite but the fresh peep definitely won the popular vote. Apparently crispy, crunchy, heat-zapped sugar isn’t as tasty as one would think 😉

I loved the discussion that this experiment lead to and the curiosity that it brought out in my kiddos. This was definitely a “learning is fun day” and those are my favorite days!

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It’s All About Sharing

After writing my last blog post I pasted it to my Facebook page and had a few comments from people who are teachers, who are parents of public school children, or who thought that maybe our children are missing out on things because of our decision to homeschool. Some of these comments were made in good fun (and I totally appreciate a laugh) and some of them were more serious. Let me first say this, I love passionate people! I love it when people believe in something so much that they share their passion and their ideas or beliefs with others so that we can all learn and grow.

This social media thing is really a blessing if you let it be. I can post my ideas and views of the world and you can comment and share yours and together we can change. It’s really all about sharing. We must remember this though; there is no such thing as one size fits all. When I posted I wasn’t in any way suggesting that homeschooling is for everyone. It’s not. When I share my information with you I’m not telling you that you have to try it and I’m certainly not telling you that you will like it. One thing I have found to be true of homeschoolers is that we are sharers. We are passionate about the path that we have chose but yet I haven’t met one homeschooler that was pushy. I never talked to one person while doing my research that I felt was telling me that homeschooling is the only option or even the right option. Each and every family is different and you need to do what’s right for you.

What I did challenge my Facebook readers to do was to have a reason why. Have a reason why you are doing what you are doing. If you don’t have a solid reason then find one. We started Zack in kindergarten at the public school because that was what you do when kids turn 5. Right? We didn’t explore our options or even act like we had any. We continued to do the same with Lexi and then with Logan. The school district sends you paperwork in the mail to enroll your child and you fill it out and send it back. Soon you get a letter inviting you to Kindergarten Round-Up and all is well in the world. Or is it? We didn’t have a why for sending our children to public school, we did it because that’s what everyone else does. It was what we were supposed to do. It wasn’t until after we started getting frustrated with our situation that we thought about what we wanted for our children and asked ourselves if we had a reason why they were where they were. If you know the hubby and I you know that we don’t just do what everyone else does. That’s not our style. We need reasons!

Friends sharing their experiences caused us to finally seek out our options and find a situation that would fit us. Lots of prayer and listening to what God had planned for our family was essential. We were being called to bring our children home and through the fear we decided to take the leap. We are forever grateful to those that shared with us. Now we are sharing our experiences. Not to bring anyone over to our way of doing things and not to make anyone feel like our way is inferior to yours or vice versa, but just to share. Maybe our reasons why are your reasons why not! I can totally appreciate that 🙂

This social media thing allows us to share. We share pictures and thoughts, events and passions. Sharing helps us to see the world from different views. When I read your comments I can think about them with an open mind and consider your way of thinking, not to change my mind (although sometimes that happens) but so next time I know my audience a little better, I know how others view the topic, I can be more clear or show more empathy and sometimes I gain more passion. I like when we share. It changes me. I strive to be better today than I was yesterday and sometimes I achieve that when we share.

P.S. Will my kids miss out on things because they are homeschooled? Absolutely. Will other children miss out on things because they aren’t? You bet. When you sit down to write your reasons why you are doing what you are doing, in any area of life, also consider the pros and cons. When your list of pros outweighs your cons you know you are headed in the right direction.

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Not having to worry about what time we get to bed is definitely on our pros list 😉