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A trip reflection article, “Logging off Social Media (and on to Service in Costa Rica)”, written by Daniel Chan to impact for positive changes after his Rustic Pathways leadership development service trip to Costa Rica in 2016, was first posted on International School of Beijing ("ISB") school website under ISB News on March 2, 2017 (http://www.isb.bj.edu.cn/page.cfm?p=592&newsid=1609&ncat=3) and incorporated in the school magazine, The Bulletin Vol 3, Issue 1 2016-17.

Logging off Social Media (and on to Service in Costa Rica)

By Daniel Chan

 As a wise man once said, "Time is what we want the most, but what we use the worst." We all know that social media provides society with innumerable benefits including worldwide connectivity and real-time information sharing. However, alongside these benefits there are also disadvantages including uncensored explicit content, cyber bullying, scams and identity thefts, invasions of privacy, and other unwanted drama. Yet, despite these cons to social media, I've realized a more pressing issue social media users face.

Before summer of 2016, I was just another social media-obsessed adolescent. It wasn't until I lost my access to technology that I gained something much more meaningful: a deeper appreciation of the world and those dear to me. During that summer, I enrolled in a three-week program in Costa Rica. It was in this tropical Central American country that I developed new attributes and skills including leadership, responsibility, communication, and collaboration.

However, most importantly I recognized my obsessions with social media and thus learned a valuable life lesson.

Shortly into the program, WiFi (and therefore social media) was no longer accessible. In the beginning, I felt a constant sense of dissatisfaction and hopelessness, like a part me had been torn away. It was a pivotal first week as I learned to adept and accept the change; it was as if I was experiencing addiction withdrawal.

 As the first week came ended, I gradually recognized the toll that social media had taken upon my life; my world before Costa Rica had constantly revolved around the Internet. Moreover, I realized my social media addiction was not only affecting me, it was consuming society.

The more we use it, the easier it becomes to withdraw from or have any tangible connection to the real world. We are obsessed with our number of "followers," the "likes" our posts get, and the places our name is "tagged." Our inability to recognize we are under this social media "spell" burdens us.

Standing atop a hill, I gazed over the vast lands of Costa Rica: its nature, scenery, and people. I reflected on my life and realized how much time I've wasted in my obsession to keep up with social media – and how I could never recover that time.

I asked myself, "What about the people around me? What about spending that time with family and friends? What about living in the moment? How could I do that well?" As I continued down the hill and into the street, I saw countless smiles on my peers' faces, the never-ending mountains, and the rising sun.

From the personal insights that came from this trip, I learned to look beyond the surface of my life and what I want it to stand for. To see more than the metaphoric tip of the iceberg conveyed in social media. To see and experience the world around me.

Time flies and some experiences may only come once in a lifetime. Each second you spend away from your family and friends is a second lost forever. We need to recognize how much of our time is consumed by social media, because we never know what may come to pass. Someone we love may end up in the hospital and by then it could be too late to say, "I could have spent more time with them."

My biggest lesson from my experience was to avoid becoming too attached to "smart" devices. Life is too short, and more time should be spent cherishing moments with those around us. After all, social media doesn't age – mankind does. The real question is: what do you value more?