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There is undisputed freedom and flexibility that being online has brought in our lives – from writing online exams right up to online shopping. I mean for starters; you probably would not be reading this blog post had you not been connected online. With instant messaging and notifications, endless apps across phones, tablets, and laptops, we’ve never been more connected. In one hour, you can Skype family, facetime a friend, send off a string of emails, tweet, and post a story on Instagram. It’s all so normal now and for most of us, it has become a part of our daily lives.
Although being connected is extremely pivotal for productivity, convenience and learning, one can’t help but wonder whether being constantly online and connected to almost everyone is a bit much.
According to The Social Network, a Netflix documentary that highlights the dangers of social media, we are the most connected yet loneliest generation with high statistics of depression. Mundane activities have become even harder to carry out with the growth of online activity. For example, a psychologist from the documentary states that GenZ is less comfortable with taking risks, and less likely to get a driver’s license or go on a date. The age at which young people obtain their driver’s license has become older as time goes by.
Perhaps you don’t relate to these stats but in one way or another, the online world has dramatically changed the relationship we have with ourselves and other people. To gain some perspective, let us weigh up the pros and cons which can probably help some of you make informed decisions.
Learning and working virtually
More than ever, this year has shown that being connected through the internet is a great boost for teams who don’t need to be in the office as they can work virtually. The same can be said for students who want to learn and study online.
Instant access to information
I think most of us can agree that Google is one of the best creations yet. Being able to any kind of information within the tip of your finger is a great privilege that one shouldn’t take lightly. Apps such as YouTube have become an integral tool to teach us how to do some important DIY things as well as tutorials. We live in an era where it is nearing impossible to require labour to do things because you can just google how to do it. Even dictionaries are quickly becoming outdated because why page an entire book when you can just take out your phone and google the meaning of a word.
Being connected to friends and family
One big positive of the online world is the ability to remain connected to people you have built a relationship with. Therefore texting and video calling loved ones is a more positive use of screens than just scrolling through Instagram or things that don’t enhance your relationships.
In other words, it can be beneficial to use Facebook for example to catch up with a friend from across the world – as long as it’s not interfering with making in-person plans with other people.
The inability to switch off
If you are one of those people who check emails and social media in the morning before you do anything, you’re not alone. The boundaries between work, school, home and social circles have been blurred by wireless connections and mobile devices.
While being available when needed can be counted as a positive by some, the pressure to be constantly available can be quite exhausting if no boundaries are established.
Arguably one of the biggest pitfalls of being online is the constant distractions of the internet. These distractions vary from a phone call during a meeting or a notification from social media that can cause curiosity and next thing you know, you’re picking up your phone and allowing yourself to be distracted.
According to the Netflix documentary, The Social Network, we are the most anti-social generation to date. Being online with our friends and family can create the illusion that we are “seeing” our loved ones, but maybe we really need to interrogate how often we go out for coffee, take a walk, play sports, go to the movies and the like. Loneliness is a result of the fact that screen time cannot replace investment in real and intimate relationships. Screens are taking us away from the real relationships in our lives.
Social media and anxiety
Seeing all of the great things your Facebook or Instagram friends are posting about may make you feel left out or inadequate. Additionally, you might start comparing how many “likes” or comments others get on their posts compared to your own. It might also make you compare their “progress” in life relative to yours which may lead to increased anxiety that your life is not as progressive. Above that, it might make you think of all the things that you don’t have (i.e., partner, job, qualifications, etc).
Screentime and depression
A study conducted in 2017 states that adults who watched TV or used a computer for more than 6 hours per day are more likely to experience moderate to severe depression. The reality is that looking at a screen for an excessive number of hours can worsen a person’s mood.
If you are a creative person, creative thoughts can be compromised by excessive information. Basically, if we are inundated with too much information without time to unpack, ponder and reflect, one is less likely to be innovative. Thus, the creative block. This is why often; writers will go on a writer’s retreat and switch off from the noise of the world and look for inspiration elsewhere.