Is social media augmenting your life or running it? A UK poll conducted by Sheilas’ Wheels Home Insurance titled, “The Tech-iquette Report,” illustrated our obsession with staying connected. Respondents admitted to using their phones for an average of 48 minutes during a night out. 34% said they text and e-mail while having a face-to-face conversation with another person. In fact, 13% of individuals surveyed in the UK stated that their significant other spends more time glued to their phone than talking with them. Offline relationships are being affected by our incessant need to keep up with our virtual lives. Spending time with friends, family, and loved ones without checking text, blog, social networking, or e-mail activity is becoming increasingly less common.
Jackie Brown of Sheilas’ Wheels said, “As more and more of us couldn’t imagine life without a phone in arm’s reach, personal relationships are being affected. Whether it’s a night out with friends or even going to bed at night, texting and updating social networking sites seems to be the norm with face-to-face conversations taking second best.”
Some individuals experience a need to distract themselves and social norms haven’t been firmly established to indicate when to unplug. There is no way to be present in a real life interaction if one eye is fixed on a computer or cell phone screen. In an article in the Atlantic, Stephen Marche notes that our connections have “grown broader but shallower.”
Marche continues that social media has created valid concerns including, “the fears that Facebook is interfering with our real friendships, distancing us from each other, making us lonelier; and that social networking might be spreading the very isolation it seemed designed to conquer.”
It may be time to regularly unplug. The fact that many can’t even remember a time when no one was indulging in a technology break during a movie night or dinner out, is a hint that interpersonal communications and relationships are suffering. Taking a conscious break from electronic devices can have an enormous impact on our wellbeing and even physical and mental health. Focusing on face-to-face interactions, keeps us grounded and mindful. Unplugging stimulates creativity, curiosity, and intimacy. Take a walk in nature, temporarily ban cell phones, computers, and tablets when spending quality time with others, get active, and challenge your brain. A digital obsession is a recipe for depression, anxiety, and stress.
Working on our soft skills and communication skills will give us an edge personally and professionally. Relying on technology responsibly and not in an addictive manner, will enable us to rekindle our relationships. Humans are social beings and true socialization doesn’t occur online.
As entrepreneur and motivational counselor, Jim Rohn, said, “Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.”