FEB. 4, 2017

Counting the Costs in a Long Distance Relationship

An estimated 14 million people in the U.S. are involved in long distance relationships (LDRs), with the average distance separating couples at 125 miles. In the Philippines, LDRs are a fact of life, particularly for those many Filipinos who have immigrated or are working abroad. These international LDRs are all the more challenging for couples separated not by hundreds but thousands of miles and several time zones—not to mention language barriers and cultural differences. For such couples, the odds are stacked against them. LDRs test the depth of a couple's commitment to each other and those fortunate enough to survive the many pitfalls develop a steely resolve that true love conquers all.

LDRs are definitely not for everyone. Choosing to be in such a relationship is a difficult decision and not one to be taken lightly. Both sides need to count the costs of being involved in an LDR. There are obvious financial costs involved when traveling to see each other but there are hidden costs as well, such as to one’s health when one stays up until 4 am to talk or Skype, then rely on copious amounts of caffeine to remain awake. Doing so for weeks or months on end can take its toll on one’s health and job performance.

Successful long distance relationships do exist, many of them happily. But for every LDR with a happy ending, there are many more that have sadly expired. Statistics show that 40 percent of all LDRs do not last and most start to break down after about 4.5 months. Successful LDRs require tremendous levels of trust and a commitment towards meeting in person as often as possible. Although there is a time and place for videochats like FaceTime, nothing quite compares to being together in person.

Most importantly, both sides need to plan for the future with the understanding that the relationship will not remain long distance indefinitely. If there is no end in sight and the chances are that living together in the same area will never happen, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate if the relationship is worth holding on to. As much as it may hurt, let the person go and move on with your life. Follow your heart and find someone who desperately wants to be physically with you for the rest of your life.


Social Media Can Be A Real Addiction

Are you this person? - the one who spends half the time at a party taking selfies, editing and uploading them onto Facebook while engaging in superficial conversation. If that isn’t annoying enough, you spend even more time constantly checking your smartphone for comments and likes during dinner, after dinner, and even on your way out the door.

Before starting your car, you reach down into your pocket or purse, grab your smartphone yet again and begin answering texts and email messages. To finish off what was supposed to be a fun night out, your disappointed significant other whom you ignored most of the night, must listen to your smartphone beep repeatedly as you drive home. Each beep signals new incoming messages; but to your husband or wife, that aggravating tone means -- neglect and less time for healthy communication together.

While you were alone in la-la social media land, you practically missed the entire party: a chance to reconnect with family and friends you haven’t seen in months, a chance to have meaningful conversations, to enjoy laughter, to see your loved ones’ smile, to be romantic with your husband on the dance floor, to share a thoughtful story, or to simply be present at the party for someone else besides yourself and your tech devices.

This scenario is all too typical for many Americans. This party setting is interchangeable to the social media addict and plays out the same way while at the mall, school events, family vacation, restaurants, or in the bedroom before retiring for the day.

Wasting your life away

Social media can be a real problem, even an addiction that society tends to overlook. Research shows that the average user spends about 25 hours a week emailing, texting, and using social media and other forms of online communication.  That is about 4.5 hours a day or 25 to 35 percent of a person’s wakeful day. This is equivalent to a part-time job. People in the U.S. check their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts close to 20 times a day, more than once every waking hour. In some foreign countries in Asia and Mexico, that average goes way up to 40 times a day.

Unlike what most people think, compulsive social media use is no longer just a teenager preoccupation. The highest usage is now among adults between the ages of 25 and 54 who are more prone to be glued to their smartphones than even teenagers and younger adults between 15 and 24.

Say it’s not an addiction, then try quitting. A Cornell Information Science research found that quitting Facebook and other social networks is far from simple. The phenomenon -- people trying to quit social media -- is so common that the process has its own name: “social media reversion.” Just like other addictive behavior, people who intend and believe they could quit, go through a succession of failed attempts, until finally succeeding. Of course, some never make it.

Why would a user want to quit in the first place? More people are starting to discover that excessive use of social media degrades life; and some can even pinpoint their addictive use as the root of problems in their marriage. Social media addiction robs relationships of time that couples could spend doing things together, robs them of healthy communication. With so few hours in a day left after work and commuting, the last concern a husband, wife or child would want is to compete for time with a smartphone or computer at home.

M.I.T professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle wrote in her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other: “I’ve learned from the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are. We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being ‘alone together.’ We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party. We are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”

What many people do not realize is that they are addicted. Social media addiction is perhaps the most pervasive but least talked about form of addiction in society today. A classic definition of an addict is that the person is not able to focus on daily tasks without engaging in the addicted behavior, and prioritizes time to that addicted behavior above more important matters or relationships, regardless of consequence. Lastly, the addicted behavior leads to other emotional problems. Sounds familiar?

Researchers in Germany found that people feel more lonely, frustrated, and angry after spending time on Facebook due to perceived inadequacies when comparing themselves to Facebook friends. A user’s attempts at trying to project another life, another more flattering image of himself on Facebook -- no matter how much effort it takes, as some never-ending mini-documentary production -- are really attempts to mask deeper feelings of inadequacies.

Social media networking sites is a platform to a fantasy world: photos are edited, comments are filtered, content is screened and deleted if it doesn’t fit into our projected image. Then at some point, people begin to choregraph photo op events in real life solely to post for their profiles on social media. The line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred.

What’s real is in our unedited moments and silence that we reveal our true selves. Social media networking profiles are tidy and clean; in the real world, life is often messy and relationships demand attention and work, not one-liner compliments or like-checks.

Steven Strogatz of Cornell University said social media sites can make it more difficult for us to distinguish meaningful relationships in the real world. We have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. We embrace an illusion of companionship in exchange of real companionship. We shortchange ourselves in the real world each moment we waste time choregraphing photo opts for our profile pages and obsessing over how people perceive us on social media.

Turkle says social media is attractive for three powerful reasons: one, we are always heard; two, we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and three, we never have to be alone. She says we think constant connection will make us feel less lonely, but the opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely.

Put the Brakes on Social Media Use

Clearly social media has its usefulness. There are appropriate times and places for on-line activity. We just need to restrict its use when it becomes too intrusive and disruptive to our daily lives and relationships. Some simple solutions: create safe zones where devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, computers) cannot be used such as the kitchen, dining room, or bedroom. Checking devices never should be allowed in the car. While in public places, minimize the tendency to document and post every activity. Simply enjoy the moment and the person you are with. Keep track of how much time you spend on social media and stick to a daily time limit. Most importantly, always be sensitive to your family and friends when you are in their presence -- no one really wants to be talking with someone while that person is on the phone or tablet answering texts, making comments on Facebook, or taking photos to post. Before you know it, an argument erupts or the person who you are with in time becomes tired of sharing you with some fantasy version of yourself that you’ve created on-line. Avoid the trap of social media addiction by using common sense. Know when enough is enough, and put that device down.

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