As most of our lives now exist more online than offline, it’s worth assessing if we are really heading in the right direction.
How much of our ‘awake’ hours are spent staring at our screens in social media environments such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? According to a survey, people may spend more than five hours a day browsing these sites!
There is a certain reality associated with our online presence these days: it started off as ‘good to have’ and has now become a necessity.
Between 2004 (the inception of Facebook) and 2014, the number of Facebook users went from 1 million to 1.2 billion. Given that every person we know holds a Facebook account, this is a relatable statistic. What is so intriguing about this finding and social media sites like facebook is why we feel the need to be so connected and present online.
There is no doubt that social media has conquered geographical distances and made communication so much more accessible and easier.
Somewhere along the way though, social media has replaced what was once the only way to interact- in person.
Online posts and photos have dislodged the need to catch up with friends in person, leading to the creation of a void that we are only now starting to realize.
‘It’s not’, is what every neutral person would say; however, the statistics show otherwise. According to a study, the majority of Millennials check their phones upto 150 times a day in order to gain instant gratification from social media posts specifically. This sense of superficial validation is everything that is wrong with social media today.
We now have a term, ‘Nomophobia’, which is a condition where you get anxiety at the thought of being without a mobile phone. Given that browsing of social media is one of the main tasks performed by us on our smartphones, one could say that nomophobia essentially means that we are are scared of being deprived of social media. Social media, or lack thereof, is now a cause of anxiety. What was once an insignificant and fun luxury, is now a reason to lose sleep at night.
Research psychologists who study human interaction with technology argue that ‘likes’ received on Instagram and Facebook are a legitimate source of dopamine- a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. Again, joy, which was once only derived from purely natural activities like sex, laughter, sport, and exercise is now also present in our lives from the most unexpected source. Some would say, “why not use social media? It makes us happier,” but this is not always the case. Social media has an equally strong negative result when you don’t constantly receive the validation or attention that it brings.
Given that we are now a race of individuals permanently dependent on technology, the part of the situation we can control is how we react to this reliance.
I am still one to argue that our children do not need iPads to learn in school. Conventional classroom teaching techniques involving face to face student to teacher interactions, without any involvement of iPads or laptops, produced some very capable people in the generations that proceed us that went on to do great things. There is no denying the fact that technology has eased some of the burden off of teachers. Correcting assignments, designing exam papers, analysing results, and submitting homework have all become far quicker and more efficient with the help of technology. But today, we have students who check their phones more often during a math class than their textbooks, as attention spans have shortened drastically since the advent of smartphones. Most of us are not living in the current moment, and instead, we are consumed with the artificial reality that social media has created for us. The ability and ambition to be able to conquer, acquire, become, or purchase the next best thing takes up so much of our restless minds, and we are slowly wanting to be everywhere, but we end up nowhere and alone with nothing but our phones.