Life is busy. We juggle work, school, hobbies, time with family and friends, time for ourselves, and let’s not forget that all-important sleep.
Navigating the real world is time consuming enough, but these days, we each have a parallel life that demands energy too: our digital identities.
Technology keeps us connected and has improved many aspects of daily life, including transportation, communication and healthcare.
The distraction of technology, however, has been described as an epidemic, sharply decreasing face-to-face interaction and awareness of our surroundings.
Excessive time spent immersed in our devices is replacing real-life experiences, killing the art of conversation, decreasing social skills, lowering our self-esteem, and impacting our sense of civic responsibility.
We witness its effects everywhere: at bus stops, on busy streets and even at restaurants. And why not when we have so much at our fingertips: constant connection with others, unlimited information, 24/7 shopping…basically, instant gratification.
Ironically, while we believe ourselves to be connected and connecting, we are actually becoming increasingly disconnected from the present moment and what is physically happening around us. Our online lives lead us to forget our direct impact on others and our environment.
The social media landscape is certainly a cause for concern. With cyber-bullying, fake news broadcasting, young girls asking “the internet” if they are “ugly,” lack of privacy and data leaks on the rise, it can make for a pretty hostile environment!
Everyone seeks a sense of belonging, and many find that online (through chat forums or gaming, for instance). Humans need physical interaction so even if you’re connected all day, you may still find yourself feeling isolated.
And what is it about the “curated world” of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and the rest of the gang that makes us feel like our homes, families, holidays, personalities and lives are not enough?
Spending hours on social media following the lives of others can make us forget to live, not to mention afflicting us with the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out).
Theodore Roosevelt’s words “Comparison is the thief of joy” could not be more relevant in today’s modern world.
We have become obsessed as a society with the need to share. E-verything. It’s almost as if it doesn’t exist online then it doesn’t exist at all. Experiences themselves can even become less meaningful than the sharing of them…For instance, a delicious dessert leaving a bad taste in your mouth if you can’t share it on Snapchat.
So, is the answer to get rid of our devices completely? Of course not. Occasionally switching them off and tuning in to the real world, however, will enable us to engage, observe and listen more.
To nurture a community-driven society based on trust, open-mindedness and tolerance we just need to remind ourselves that our devices are tools for connection, not distraction.
They are here to help us, not dominate us.
- Make it count. However you choose to spend your time online, set boundaries and stop yourself from getting lost in a social media spin cycle
- Do talk to strangers. We’ve been (rightly) told the opposite as children but what we’re talking about is striking up a conversation with another customer in the check-out line at the grocery store, thanking the bus driver or getting to know your neighbors
- GO shopping. Yes - GO. Not only will you have face-to-face interactions with people in your community, but you might get the chance to support local businesses
- Stay alert to fake news by double-checking information via reliable sources
- Stop counting your Likes. Getting Likes is not synonymous with being liked
- Get clued-up on privacy, cybersecurity and how the data generated by your online footprint is used. You might think twice about sharing precise vacation dates…
- Random, simple acts of kindness make the world a better place: giving a compliment, a smile, or a real thumbs-up all have the power to turn around someone’s day
- Notice when you reach for your phone. We often use our phones as crutches to protect ourselves from “uncomfortable” situations, like silence during a conversation. Hold the space. Enjoy the silence
- Don’t be a "slacktivist.” Engage on social media but also extend your virtual support by participating in the real world