Beyond the screen: social relations in a digital age
by Staff Writer
DAVIDSON – How many times have you heard that old refrain, “Let’s stay in touch!” at the end of a pleasant afternoon spent catching up over coffee?
No matter how sincere the words, life’s daily demands often find a way to monopolize our schedules, and Saturday dinner never happens.
New Year’s resolutions, enter stage left.
Many people vow to reconnect at the start of another journey around the sun. These days, that includes traditional methods plus digital technology.
Dr. Lauren Stutts, psychology professor at Davidson College, said that maintaining positive links to social support results in a decreased risk of mortality and is an important indicator of long-term happiness.
Beyond the mental health benefits of venting with friends, staying in touch, particularly in-person, reduces cortisol levels in the blood, decreases stress and improves immune system functioning, according to Stutts.
“If you commit to something and are intentional about it, you can make a difference no matter what time of year it is,” she said. “Planning trips or sending cards on birthdays requires a lot of initiative, but has important health benefits.”
Stutts said those who enlist a partner to hold them accountable are more successful with another, popular resolution: exercising more.
Dr. Seth Moliver, of Moliver Chiropractic, spends his days popping patients into alignment and champions the health benefits of walking.
“Walking is considered an aerobic exercise and strengthens the lungs and heart, improving your body’s ability to use oxygen,” he said.
The Mayo Clinic’s website further explains that walking lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol, while raising “good” HDL cholesterol. It also lowers blood pressure, helps manage weight, improves mood and reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Of course, technology has made us more sedentary than in our agricultural or manufacturing past.
“Sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time tends to lead to a forward posture, causing compression of the spine,” Moliver said. “Common symptoms include muscle stiffness in and around the shoulders and neck. More severe symptoms include pain, numbness in the arms and headaches.”
He recommends sitting up straight and taking breaks from computers every 20-30 minutes.
Kevin Smith, manager and webmaster at McBryde Website Design, lectures about social media at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville.
He advises, “Try not to be too redundant, like ‘I just went to the restroom,’ ‘I just had a hotdog.’ No one wants that level of detail.”
Smith said others may get agitated reading play-by-play posts you and your friends share while watching the Red Socks-Braves game.
“You’re probably talking to at least 10 percent of your friends at any given time.”
Smith connected with two distant cousins through social media, and though they live far apart, they share holiday greetings and photos.
He said when searching for old classmates, include a city they might live in now to increase your odds of success.
“You might have gone to school in Troutman, but they probably live in Wisconsin now.”