I was thinking back to a conversation I had with a friend over the weekend, and what kept coming up for me was how we’ve all absorbed the lockdown into our ‘new normal’. This friend of mine was joking about the big question you get asked as a school leaver or occasionally at a job interview; Where do you see yourself in five years time?
It seemed funny when he said it, as we were joking about those of us who were asked that same question in 2015. We wondered if there was anybody out there – meaning, on the entire planet, who could have predicted that 2020 would see the world shut down and entire economies cease to operate. Well, no truer a word that’s said in jest, as my Mum would say. My friend and I were normalising the lockdown by using humour to downplay what has been a harsh reset of reality.
The immediate consequences of the lockdown have meant schools have closed, events have been cancelled and millions of people are now working from home. All of those situations have had to happen out of necessity, and it means we are having to make adjustments in all areas of our lives. Being kept away from school or the office might sound great – but as time goes on we’re soon realising it’s far from ideal. People adapt, and technology has played a huge part in allowing us to be productive and social at the same time.
But the one question I keep coming back to is are we nearing a point where the harm of constant exposure to devices and digital material is outweighing the benefits? If you take the example of primary school children – most schools have taken a proactive approach and uploaded learning resources or emailed links to parents. Now, I’m all for virtual learning spaces, but how do parents manage the amount of time kids spend looking at screens when taking everything into account.
When I worked in schools (and this was five years ago!) two-thirds of children had smart phones once they got to 7. Nearly all had a t.v in their room, and some had games consoles. Today many children have tablets and some might even have their own laptops. For the digital natives born during and after the 1990s the exposure to technology has been relentless, but I don’t think that’s the most harmful aspect of living in a digital age. Every adult should be aware by now that the biggest threat to our children and vulnerable young people is the internet. I want to add another digital space to this and go further. I feel social media is now a huge threat to all of us and it’s hiding in plain sight.
Our usage of social media was bad enough before lockdown, now we’re entering another stage which is contributing to the decay of our mental health. It was bad enough when we started documenting our every move, worse still when we were photographing our lunch – now many seem fit to troll and ritually abuse others for no other reason than ‘beacuse they can.’
I’ll admit that in the UK we still suffer from a Victorian era hangover, but the keeping up with the Jones’s mentality of coveting what others have is causing serious harm.
There is a positive side to social media, of course there is. The success of certain platforms has provided wonderful tools and a way of sharing resources that weren’t possible only a few years ago. Today a single post can go viral in seconds and great campaigns have been carried on the back of them. The issue I have is for the alternative reality that is being bought into. People have lost their objectivity. It seems all we’re willing to aspire to is a career as an influencer who takes selfies as we travel to luxurious locations.
Social media is warping our view of ourselves, of what’s important in life – and it’s destroying our values. It’s not just our young people who are most at risk – it’s all of us. We’re all reaching for our phones far too frequently, and the truth is we have become addicted to the apps stored on them. Too often we’re looking at images or seeking out material in order to absorb ourselves in fantasy. The brain doesn’t know the difference when interacting with a virtual space – and actually doing the activity in real life. We have become addicted to our own dopamine release and this is a behaviour that was previously only seen in drug users.
The dopamine loop is a modern age affliction, striking us down and limiting our potential. We need to take better care of ourselves. Restrict how often you view social media, and bare in mind that life was very different for Dorothy when she peaked behind the Wizards curtain. We don’t get that opportunity with other peoples posts – but we need to bare that little scenario in mind. ‘Smoke and mirrors’ and ‘All that glitters is not gold’ are two stock phrases I would fall back on when looking at the accounts of the rich and famous especially.
It’s bad enough having to look at a screen all day for work – do you really need to be staring at miniaturised handheld version while you’re eating your dinner? Why not try a digital detox during the weekends? Try it for 24hrs, might seem weird at first but focus on how good you’ll feel at the end of it. This is something you could definitely try if you have time off in future.
STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONE!