When I was a child, the only screen I switched on during Christmas was the television and usually, that was to watch a holiday classic with my family.
I was born in the 80s and I still remember the things we did when the Internet didn’t exist. We played outside, visited friends to talk, and sent cards in the mail. There were no such things as smartphones or tablets, and no one was posting on social media.
Has our world ever changed. From the moment we wake up to just before bed, we now live in an age of near-constant global connectivity.
There’s a dark side to social media, which can intensify this time of year.
More than three-quarters of us own a smartphone and 90 per cent have two or more devices. The average person aged 18 to 34 spends over 2 hours per day on their phone. Add laptops, tablets, and other gadgets to the mix and we easily use up an entire day every week online (outside of work or school).
There’s no question that technology has made many aspects of our lives and relationships better. Think of the families across the globe who can now see each other through FaceTime or the personal and professional networks forged within Twitter and LinkedIn.
More and more, however, virtual contact is taking the place of direct human connection. The constant checking of our phones for a text, email, or notification. The hours spent mindlessly browsing strangers’ photos on Instagram.
In a world where likes, clicks, and follows are the new forms of engagement, it’s no wonder we’re increasingly feeling more alone. We spend more time looking at everyone else’s lives rather than enjoying our own.
Sure, Cardi B’s fashion is bold and vivacious, and Will Smith’s videos are the best things on the Internet. But there’s a dark side to social media, which can intensify this time of year.
At its worst, social media allows us to compare ourselves to others. The beautifully behaved children, the gorgeous-looking tree, the impressive maple-glazed turkey, and of course the most amazing parties. Everyone, it seems, has a perfect life online, and a perfect Christmas.
Research tells us that this ceaseless comparison to others can lead to feelings of inadequacy, depression and loneliness.
Research tells us that this ceaseless comparison to others can lead to feelings of inadequacy, depression and loneliness. This poses greater risks to our healththan smoking or obesity. The constant distraction of our phones can also have damaging effects on our relationships.
All of these consequences are essentially symptoms of misuse of technology. What we have to do then, is find healthier ways of engaging with it. With Christmas here and New Year’s just around the corner, there really is no better time for a digital detox!
Do whatever works for you. Turn your phone off. Sign off or delete your apps. Set time limits across all devices. Be mindful of what you’re consuming, and how it’s making you feel. Stay connected to those who matter. Have real-life conversations. Enjoy your presents, play games, and listen to music. And watch those beloved holiday classics, together with your family of course..
If all else fails and you still can’t curb your smartphone habits, talk online with family and friends—this kind of interaction, as opposed to interacting with strangers or simply reading about other people, is associated with improvements in well-being.
So, here’s to enjoying the very best of the holiday season tech-free(ish)! And to improving our health and happiness along the way.
This article was originally published on Find Your Pleasure.