The internet is an irresistible place. We are constantly, mindlessly scrolling through the virtual world. We carry our phones with us all day, and put it next to our beds when we go to sleep. This has given us short attention spans, anxiety and restlessness. Of course, our smart-phones have so much positive influence on our everyday lives. But we have to be aware of the social consequences that come with it. Our smart-phones should be seen as something that is supplemental to our everyday lives, as opposed to a replacement for our everyday lives. It is very easy to give in to the constant stream of information and distraction, because it distracts us from ourselves and it makes us feel good.
Sherry Turkle, a researcher on psychoanalysis and human-technology interaction says that we are “alone together”. People want to be with each other, but also elsewhere at the same time. According to Turkle, people are becoming more and more lonely, but at the same time afraid of intimacy. We are only at the foot of the mountain when it comes to understanding technology and the internet, and increasingly our smart-phones are impacting our everyday social lives.
When we text or post something on Facebook, we have time to delete, edit and change our words. We can paint an ideal picture of ourselves. But this is not who we are. When having a face to face conversation with somebody, sometimes we get awkward and don’t know what to say or uncontrollably blur out in comprehensive gibberish. But that is what makes us human.
Another effect of our smart-phones is that we are always on, always connected, we are constantly being bombarded and interrupted with pictures, videos, texts and emails. Our brains are being overloaded with information. But these distractions make us feel good, if only for a brief moment. We get used to instant gratification; Don’t remember that actor’s name? Google it! Every answer is at our fingertips, but we keep scrolling and swiping, because we are never fully satisfied.
I’m not saying go on a Buddhist-meditation retreat to re-connect with your inner-self. But we have to realize that more and more social media is replacing actual social interaction with other physical human beings. Because of this we lose the capacity to develop meaningful human relationships.
This continuous stream of information is not good for our brains either; every now and then our brains need downtime: a moment of rest, of silence, to give chance for self-reflection. A few years ago these moments of downtime happened when waiting for the bus, when walking to class or waiting for a meeting to begin. Now, the only safe-zone seems to be the shower. We need that moment of silence, to self-reflect, to be able to let ourselves feel bad about something, to give in to our emotions and accept them, instead of flowering them up with another Snapchat filter.
In these moments of silence – in between chaos and distractions – is where ideas happen, where we build a foundation for our minds and where our imagination flourishes.