How many times have you sat with friends or family and noticed the many times people check their phones! How many times have you been to restaurants and noticed that family and friends are on blackberries, iphones, tablets etc. Recently I was at a restaurant and noticed a family of four at dinner. The two little girls, on tablets, live streaming a cartoon channel on maximum volume, while the parents, completely oblivious of the ruckus, carried on in deep conversation. Of course to the complete irritation of the other patrons!
Social media, smart phones and tablets have added huge value to our lives. It has connected societies and people that may never have been connected before. It has made news accessible at any time, and anyplace. It has made it possible for people to be proactive about crime and witnessing criminal events. It has created solidarity for groups when a collective voice is required and caused positive change.
At the same time though, kept out of check, it has the propensity to also add to the stress and chaos in our lives. One’s mind is constantly kept busy with posts, pictures, pings, texts, what’s app alerts and so on. The first reaction is to check what, who, why, where! A fear of missing out (FOMO) causes huge disturbances in the normal life. Additionally, it adds to clutter and noise in the mind. One never truly “lives” in the present time, enjoying life at that moment. People live in a distracted daze, wondering what’s going on in the social media world. In the long term, I am certain that this creates an issue with mental focus, concentration and competence. Additionally, who knows what it will do to the spiritual self!
Personally, I have decided to take control of this. I am tired of the noise in my head and the buzz of what’s going on with everyone else ringing in my ears! Here are some of my tips:
Set times when it’s ok for you or family members to be on the social networks. Use only that time to check Facebook, send tweets and what’s app messages only. Choose a time that is practical and reasonable for everyone so that they can get their “dose” of being online.
Make it fun
While the family gets used to these new rules, have some fun with a fines or demerit system. Set a rule with teenagers around BBMs. In my house, we have a spot fine system. If BBMs are responded to during family interactions or conversations, there is a monetary fine! Bye bye allowance! Make sure that you can also be policed by the others and accept the punishment that you get too.
Turn off alerts
Many platforms alert one as messages come through. Go the settings options of that app and switch off alerts. This reduces the urge to respond immediately. Agree with family and friends that if something is urgent that a telephone call or sms will be used.
Keep phones in handbags or turn them face down during family and other social interactions. Better still, have a counter at home or basket in which all electronic devices can be kept. Out of sight, out of mind, literally!
Set time limits for tablets
It’s easy and tempting to let little ones play on tablets. There are only so many educational apps so stop fooling yourself that they are “learning”. Nothing is, more valuable than reading, playing a game or running outside. Those are the memories that children keep of their childhood, not the twentieth time that they watched a TV series! Allow them to be used at certain time and for an hour or so. Near bedtime is never a good idea, as the mental and visual stimulation may affect sleep onset.
Connect physically and concretely
Make your connections matter. For close friends and family, set up times, coffees, lunches, dinners for a group and truly live in those moments. It may not be often, but those will be the times that you will make memories, laugh together and care for one another. The 200 what’s app messages that you missed can’t come close! Agree the rules that are appropriate for your group during these gatherings and make it fun.
Have meaningful connections
Once again, it comes down to numbers and size! How many friends on FB or followers on Twitter! It’s about quality and not quantity as the old adage says. Rather stay connected with those that you choose to and not the whole world. Post authentic information and not stuff that creates the image that you are some superstar, with supercars in Hollywood!
At the end of it all, “Friendship means understanding, not agreement, it means forgiveness, not forgetting. It means the memories last, even if the contact is lost.” (author unknown). Live in the moment, not in the networks. Love and care for those that truly matter! Live life fully and savor the present. You will not have that forever.