By Melanie Ashton.
Over the New Year a video went viral on Facebook and YouTube in which motivational speaker Simon Sinek discusses what he calls ‘The Millennial Question’. He discusses how employers feel that they cannot connect with the generation born post 1994 and they can’t understand why. Simon puts this down to several factors, one of them being technology and social media. Ed Sheeran recently revealed that he no longer has a phone and can only be contacted by e-mail. He felt that his phone stopped him from being in the moment and once he stopped using it he found that he was thinking again rather than filling empty moments by turning to his phone. The idea that smartphones can become addictive and have a severely negative impact on not only our relationships but also our mental health and productivity really struck a chord with me and I think it is something worth considering.
One of the most noticeable effects of smartphones is that they stunt our productivity. It is so easy to waste hours and hours repeatedly checking every social media account you have. Checking my phone is the first thing I do every morning and the last thing I do before I go to bed and if someone asked me why I honestly couldn’t tell them. Social media doesn’t add any impact to my life, I don’t learn anything of substance except that another girl from my high school is pregnant or engaged and I don’t gain anything except a slight smile at a relatable meme. The problem is that there is something so addictive about it that you would rather be staring at your phone than getting your assigned reading done, going for a walk or just getting out of bed.
This becomes a problem when you do become so engrossed in the world of social media that you neglect the time you spend with family and friends when you are face to face. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to have a conversation with somebody who is more interested in texting someone else or even just not paying attention because their phone keeps flashing every two seconds and they have to check that they haven’t missed anything. Phones are laid on the table with us when we’re eating dinner or at a bar. Conversations pause when a notification alert goes off. We aren’t connecting with each other because we are trying to be in two places at once. Having awkward silences in conversations and pauses of thought is the time in which we bond with people, rather than not even bothering to think of what to say because we can mentally leave the situation and Snapchat or text or WhatsApp someone else.
- Image sourced from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/19/social-media-makes-you-socially-awkward_n_5512749.html
The more serious side is when we look at the connection between social media and mental health. Simon mentions in the video that it has been proven that those who use Facebook are more likely to suffer from depression. This is because there is this constant pressure to meet the standards of the lives we see other people living. We use filters and photoshopping apps to perfect our lives and receive some kind of gratification from other people. I know people that upload a picture to Instagram at a certain time of day to get more likes and then get upset if they don’t get a certain number. We have always been taught that we should celebrate each individual and we should be who we want to be without adjusting to the expectations of others, but social media contradicts this and sets an ambition to reach this unattainable standard of perfection.
I’m not saying we should burn all smartphones and delete our social media accounts, both have benefits for staying in contact with people and are brilliant in case of emergency. However, I do think it is worth trying to put your phone away when you are with other people or getting some work done. It will be hard for the first couple of weeks but you will notice a difference in your relationships and your productivity. If you think it’s not a problem in your life and you have complete control still try it, you will be surprised once you notice how much you instinctively reach for your phone!
Simon Sinek ‘The Millennial Question’ (from 2:37) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vudaAYx2IcE
Ed Sheeran Chats About Giving Up His Smart Phone (from 4:10) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGhqWzBgDz8