We were having a meal out recently. As we looked around the restaurant, there were people at 10 tables. Apart from ourselves, only 2 other tables had people actually talking to each other. The other 7 tables either had a single person, couples or larger groups where a smart phone or tablet was being used! So, are we addicted to our smart phones or tablets and constantly seek out ‘free wifi’ hot spots?
In their Communication Market Report of 2016, Ofcom, noted the impact of personal digital platforms on our personal and working lives. The sample survey, (2025 adults and 500 teenagers) indicated that both groups ‘spend more time on media and communications, on a daily basis’, than sleeping. Wow!
Society is split over the positive and negative impact of this modern trend. There are positives such as the importance of being connected to friends, access to knowledge, being entertained and feeling safe. The negatives mentioned included, not being able to spend enough time on other activities, (such as housework, homework, relationships, exercise…), neglecting face to face contact with family and friends, the stress of always being available and unable to forget work. It is so easy to forget what is happening around you. You forget about being in the present, being mindful.
We were watching a Panorama programme about Facebook and the impact it has had on social interaction. Also an article by Nick Collins in the Telegraph, commented on the growing numbers of people affected by what has been labelled as ‘Facebook addiction’. Research by the University of Bergen identified a link between addiction symptoms of anxiety and insecurity and a compulsive need to use social networking sites. The University of Chicago investigated the ‘desires’ and ‘urges’ from over 250 people and found that alcohol and tobacco prompted lower levels of desire than the need to check social network sites! 80% of parents (as reported by Matt Warman from the Telegraph) fear that their children could get addicted to social network sites. 30% of parents stated that they believe that the web can ‘rewire’ a person’s brain. There is no evidence for this. Of course it can be fun and so useful when keeping in touch with friends and family.
I was in a school over the lunch interval recently. The weather was nice yet the indoor space was packed with lots of students busy on their phones and Ipads, busy ‘networking’ away. Possibly they were checking up on their homework (!) However it does seem that for some young people it may be more appealing to do this than actually interacting with the person sitting beside them! Where will we be in 10 years’ time? Will the bubble have burst or will we be even more hooked into virtual interaction?
The Ofcom Report also commented on the issue that adults are aware of this and an increasing number are having ‘digital detox’ periods when the phones and tablets are left at home. As wellness and well-being consultants we have many clients who feel that open and free accessibility through their phones and tablets, leaves them with a negative balance when it comes to their overall work/ life balance and relationships.
So, is it time to consider a ‘digital detox’?