Technology and social media are growing so fast that there is no going back.
Just over a year ago, on September 17, 2016, I decided to come off all forms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
I have learnt that time is so precious, so why are we spending it looking at a screen?
When I made this decision I didn’t realise the impact it had on people’s lives.
Before coming off social media I had already changed my smartphone to an old-fashioned mobile with push buttons.
People thought I was mad, but I felt a lot more relaxed knowing I had control over my phone instead of it controlling me. I then decided to come off all forms of social media.
Now, after a year I have seen the effects – and it scares me.
One day I was stuck in traffic on the Eastern Road heading into Portsmouth when I spotted a cyclist with his head down, using his mobile – with both hands – not even looking where he was going.
I didn’t realise this was even possible. It was quite a feat.
At that moment I realised how addicted people are to technology and social media.
The way it works is that every time someone gets a like, retweet, share or a comment it sends a message to the brain telling them they are loved.
They are getting attention and it’s a good feeling.
For example, when someone receives a text or notification the brain gets a hit of dopamine, which is the feel-good chemical.
This is where the addiction starts – it has the exact same effect as drugs, alcohol or gambling.
I believe it’s leading to a drop in basic social skills, professionalism and people’s attention spans are getting shorter.
Recently I was in a cafe next to a table of four adults and two children of mixed ages.
Both the children were using electronic tablets and none of the adults were engaging with them, except to tell them off for making noise.
It made me wonder how much time these children are spending on technology instead of gaining important people skills.
If it happens in a cafe it probably happens at home.
A few months ago I had a very bad hair cut from a barber who answered his phone twice and carried on talking while he snipped.
It was rude and unprofessional. I was expected to pay £10 for a bad hair cut and ugly customer service.
As someone who works in customer service, I get really annoyed with bad customer service and for someone to be on their phone it shows they do not care – and that is insulting.
Social media can be very damaging.
You may have seen the word ‘filter’ used a lot in the past couple of years in reference to online photos.
A filter is used to change the way a picture looks, to make it look better.
This term could also be used for the general use of social media, to filter out the bad bits of people’s lives, showing only the good bits.
Those who are addicted care about what they see on social media and react to it.
For example, someone will see that one of their friends has posted about buying a new car or going on holiday.
The reaction to that is not always positive, it may cause jealousy.
Jealousy can turn to depression when people constantly compare themselves to others and it leads them to feel like failures.
Depression and mental health issues are on the rise, and a big part of that is down to the pressures of social media.
Another danger is cyber crime. People are at risk of being bullied, scammed, or hacked online because of the amount of information they give out about themselves.
Social media companies want as much info about you as possible, which is why they keep asking.
How many times have you been asked to give your phone number online for ‘security’?
I was always told to only give my personal phone number to people I trust.
Now people use their phone numbers to get into their social media accounts if they forget their password.
It is just another way companies extract more information out of people who do not know how to control how much they put online.
I feel like I care more when I talk to people since coming off social media because I feel the emotion when someone talks.
I have learnt to appreciate the art of having a truly heartfelt conversation, which is sadly slowly deteriorating.
There are clear signs that people’s attention spans are shortening – the tone of voice, constantly fiddling with mobile phones, or attempting to keep conversations short.
When you next walk down the street, look at how many people you see with their heads looking down into their phones.
Doctors have reported people suffering from ‘text neck’, is a term for the pain you get from constantly looking down at mobile devices.
It causes all sorts of problems for posture.
I can say with certainty, since coming off social media my life has improved.
I do not need to keep up with the demand of looking good online and I really do not care about anything that is on there.
I have a lot more time to socialise with people in person.
I didn’t read a lot before coming offline but since doing so I have been able to read books from inspirational people and gain vast knowledge in different areas of interest because I have the time to do so.
I also feel that my mental health has improved because I’m a lot more relaxed.
I used to procrastinate a lot, now I am a lot more focussed at work and at home.
This is just my personal experience and I have learnt that time is so precious, so why are we spending it looking at a screen?
It can be hard for people to remove social media from their lives.
Society has been convinced technology and social media are needed.
Using my personal experience I want to inspire people to be able to spend less time on technology and social media – there are so many benefits.
I am scared of what the future may hold.
We are already treating our devices like a second brain, and it is now a natural part of our lives.
I want people to understand that taking the time to come off this technology has its benefits and I hope more people will be willing to make the same changes to their lifestyle that I have.
Whether it be for a day or a year, I encourage people to try a digital detox.
n What do you think? Let us know at portsmouth.co.uk.