I believe that the world is a wondrous place that is filled with good, with kindness and with like-minded people that only strive to be happy, who want to take care of the people that they love and who just want to live a life that offers a sense of worth and contribution.
I also believe that many of us are missing it. Missing time, missing moments, missing opportunity and losing our tether to the world around us because we live vicariously through portals – looking glasses into what we perceive as “reality” – all in conveniently packaged, sleek and proficient technology that claims to “connect us”.
Think about what happens when you receive a notification from your phone – you stop what you are doing – a conversation, a moment, homework, work-work. What may have originally taken you an hour to do, now actually takes you longer, because focus is being pulled from the task at hand.
Think about how you interact with the people around you. How many times have you looked away, interrupted a conversation or a moment with your friends or family because your phone beeped or vibrated – how many times was what you looked at important enough for you to have left that moment behind?
First, you need to know what is happening to you when you are online. Social media is made to capture and manipulate consumption to encourage the highest amount of engagement possible. This activity has been defined – it’s called “Brain Hacking”. For our young, it impacts their mental health, growth and maturity in ways that impact the way that they eventually think about and perceive the world around them. For them, and for everyone else, it manipulates the parts of our brains that manage impulse control, empathy, judgement and the ability to make decisions on our own – without influence.
Each time you scroll, you are being influenced on what to think – about the world, yourself, your body image, what you should believe, other people’s thoughts, ideas – both mundane and controversial – invade your head, making it almost impossible to formulate an opinion that is truly your own. Your identity becomes wrapped up in the things you see, read, react to and engage with technologically and less about who you are, what you believe and how you view yourself.
I overheard a group of teenage girls the other day talking about posts that they had made to Instagram. I do not know what the content contained but the conversation was about how many “likes” they had each received. It was a competition. They judged each other (and these girls were friends) over nameless and faceless clicks on their profile. They judged themselves on how they “ranked” in the group. As I watched them, I could not help but wonder what each of them would do to “out-rank the other, and what a dangerous road that could lead to. If content drove the engagement, what lengths would they go to, to be “liked”?
I know that I personally have given away my control. I am no different that the average person who owns technology. I am become so “tethered” to my phone that I often perceive activity where there is none – i.e. a friend took the time to print and send me a Christmas picture of her dogs. It sits on my desk. It is glossy and every once in a while it moves slightly and the “glossy” coating reflects the light stimulating my brain to think that my phone just went off.
When it happened the first time it was so automatic. I reached for the card thinking it was my phone.
Awareness changes everything. Awareness is your weapon against influences and damaging behaviors. “While you are online, your mind, your thoughts, your core values are drifting to wherever tech companies what you to go. The remedy is to limit the time you spend drifting in the online world.”
This year, my commitment is to spend more time “tethered” to things that truly matter; real people, real conversations, real experiences. To participating in my life – being outside, baking, cooking, walking, laughing, reading. To touching things – my camera, my yoga mat, my children, my dog.
Self-regulation is key. For my family we will set systems that allow us to immerse in the virtual world – because I do believe there is good out there to discover. But we will set time for “real” life and “true” engagement with each other and the tangible world around us:
- We will move to alarm clocks and not phones to wake up in the morning
- All technology will be charged in a communal space
- No texting or technology after 9 p.m.
- We will create technology windows where we will spend time “online” at the same time and in tandem, “tethering” times when we are all offline as well
My hope is that we become more “connected”, that we learn to be “social” in real time with real moments and that we “like” the world in which we live in – the here and the now. Because the world is a wondrous place that is filled with good – and we shouldn’t miss that.
 “Hands Free Mama” – Rachel Macy Stafford