There are many times that I have even noticed myself nodding my head at my daughter with my eyes fixed on the mobile phone screen. It startles me and soon after which, I consciously put the device aside and establish eye contact.
With the advent of mobile phones in the late 90’s along with call rates constantly dropping; family members and friends staying apart due to education, work, marriage etc could now stay in contact anytime and from anywhere. It worked great for me, as I was studying away from home and this was a convenient tool that kept me in touch with my parents.
However, with continuous upgradations on the services and applications of the phone such as internet access, games, free of cost chatting platforms, social media, e-commerce etc, the mobile phone has now become much more than a tool to help stay in touch. Our attention spans are increasingly getting divided and our social interactions are becoming distant, distracted and superficial.
- It is not so rude anymore to be looking through your phone while talking to somebody or even while dining at the table with loved ones.
- People connect less with their eyes, bodies, voices, smiles, and tears and express more through emoticons, an elusive experience of a two-way conversation from behind a screen
- Even birthday wishes have become impersonal with people now resorting to text messaging or social media platforms rather than meeting or making a small voice call to wish you on your special day.
These are just a few notable shifts in today’s human relation dynamics.
With an increase in the number of communication devices brought into our homes, direct actual personal interactions are declining.
Smartphone or Internet addiction can also negatively impact your life by:
- Increasing loneliness and depression. While it may seem that losing yourself online will temporarily make feelings such as loneliness, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air, it can actually make you feel even worse. A 2014 study found a correlation between high social media usage and depression and anxiety. Users, especially teens, tend to compare themselves unfavorably with their peers on social media, promoting feelings of loneliness and depression.
- Fueling anxiety. One researcher found that the mere presence of a phone in a work place tends to make people more anxious and perform poorly on given tasks. The heavier a person’s phone use, the greater the anxiety they experienced.
- Increasing stress. Using a Smartphone for work often means work bleeds into your home and personal life. You feel the pressure to always be on, never out of touch from work. This need to continually check and respond to email can contribute to higher stress levels and even burnout.
- Exacerbating attention deficit disorders. The constant stream of messages and information from a Smartphone can overwhelm the brain and make it impossible to focus attention on any one thing for more than a few minutes without feeling compelled to move on to something else.
- Diminishing your ability to concentrate and think deeply or creatively. The persistent buzz, ping or beep of your Smartphone can distract an individual from important tasks, slow their work, and interrupt those quiet moments that are so crucial to creativity and problem solving. Instead of ever being alone with our thoughts, we’re now always online and connected.
- Disturbing your sleep. Excessive Smartphone use can disrupt your sleep, which can have a serious impact on your overall mental health. It can impact your memory, affect your ability to think clearly, and reduce your cognitive and learning skills.
- Encouraging self-absorption. A UK study found that people who spend a lot of time on social media are more likely to display negative personality traits such as narcissism. Snapping endless selfies, posting all your thoughts or details about your life can create an unhealthy self-centeredness, distancing an individual from real-life relationships and making it harder to cope with stress.
What can we do to keep human connections more personal and real?
- Make the time and effort to meet with your loved ones; you could plan ahead and travel if necessary.
- When conversing with people, maintain eye contact, stay present and genuinely listen to the other party without giving in to external interruption.
- Resist the temptation to answer messages or check social media feed while in conversation or interaction with others for e.g. during meal times
- Try and allot some gadget free time during the day to allow for self-reflection and quality time with friends and/or family.
- A pat on the back, personalised notes or even a quick phone call or visit can help create that personal connection, while also conveying to the other that they matter.
- Spend some time in nature, meditate and find ways to immerse yourself in an activity that can help you detox or quiet your mind. This can help us reconnect with ourselves and with the real world that surrounds us.
These are the most basic and natural ways we can connect better with one another and ourselves. A few practices that we can revive in our own small ways and feel less isolated in a hyperconnected world.