But, staying in contact with friends and family can be more important than we realize. Isolation, especially social isolation, can be damaging to our health. According to an article by Elahe Izadi in the Washington Post our “relationships are just as important to [our] health as exercising and eating well.” Surprisingly, studies have shown that while “quality relationships” are very important for adults in mid-life (mid-30’s to 50’s), what matters most for older adults is quantity. In other words for those of us moving into our sixties and beyond, “having a big social network” is more important than the depth of those relationships. You can read Elahe Izadi’s entire article in the Washington Post here.
So what do we do when family lives far away? And friends are scattered across the country? Or if they live close, they are busy with work and family and their own lives? I don’t know about you, but I’ve become more and more reliant on social media for keeping in touch.
That’s how I keep in touch with this cutie. My best friend from high school, Debi. She lives in Calgary, and we haven’t seen each other in person since 2006, and before then it was even longer. But now Facebook allows us to keep in contact. To reminisce about those days when we were inseparable, stayed overnight at each other’s homes, swapped clothes, and got up to all kinds of things that won’t be revealed here. Ha.
|Debi and me. Calgary, Alberta, 2006|
|Colleen and me, Parlee Beach, New Brunswick, 2013|
|Three sisters: Carolyn, Connie, and me. Douglas, New Brunswick. September 2017.|
|Mary, Donna, Colleen, and me. Marysville, New Brunswick, 2016.|
|Clockwise from top left: Rosie, Wendy, Frances. New friends thanks to blogging.|
When it comes to relationships and social networks, on-line or in real life, what matters most, says UNC professor Yang Claire Yang, “is what those ties mean in your life. Do they provide support or strain? That’s what tends to matter for health” (source.) And really, if a relationship is not a supportive one, if it’s creating strain or stress, then it’s not one you want in your life anyway, is it? On-line or in real life. I recently came to the conclusion that if I don’t feel valued in a relationship, it’s not one I want to continue. Imagine only learning that at age 61.
But I do feel valued by the close friends and family with whom social media has allowed me to stay close. And by many of the new friends I’ve made and continue to make on-line. I know that staying in touch can be complicated… Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, not to mention e-mails, blogs, and texts. That sometimes keeping up with social media can be, well, wearing. When that happens I take a break. Or I cull the number of people whom I “follow.” But if used in moderation, with a healthy dose of skepticism, social media should add to the quality, and to the size, of our social network. And that can be good for us.
I mean, we’re adults. We’re smart. We can make wise choices. We can use social media judiciously, and enjoy the benefits, while hopefully avoiding those negative consequences.
Don’t you think?
|This is my skeptical look.|
So, enough about me. Now, it’s your turn my lovely on-line, and sometimes off-line, not to mention off the wall (ha) friends. How do you handle social media? Does it improve your life? Make it easier to keep in touch with friends and family?