How to defeat the distractions of the digital world

Today’s society is in constant turmoil over the impact of digital devices, social media and our often excessive use of them. Their use is unparalleled; they allow instant communication and new forms of creativity as well as constant entertainment.

Parents, on the other hand, may tell us that our phones are the source of all problems and that we are ruining our young lives by staring at a screen, scrolling, liking and retweeting all day. Whilst this is a slight overreaction, there are some negatives of constantly using social media and mobile phones.

Social media admittedly is very addictive; we can become obsessed. People spend more time on their hand-sized devices than they do enjoying the world around them. Glued to their phone screens, rather than their eyes to the sky, beauty passes us by in favour of pixels. With phones constantly by our side and numerous newsfeeds to update, our productivity decreases.

Carrying out tasks, such as listening to a lecture, writing an essay, composing an email or even tidying up, have become impossible to do without experiencing the temptation of reaching for your laptop, tablet or phone.

An obvious problem with social media and the digital world is cyber bullying. One in three children have been a victim of cyberbullying, according to the NSPCC, and one in four young children have experienced racist or hate messages online. The mask of the computer allows people to make nasty, sexist, racist and homophobic comments, without the same repercussions of making these abusive remarks in person. Online abuse can often have a detrimental impact on the mental health and self-confidence of victims.

Added to this, the streams of pictures of beautiful Victoria’s Secret Angels and photoshopped models, can create a damaging perception of body image.Therefore, it’s essential that we switch off sometimes.

Particularly for young people, it’s important to take a break from social media, to ensure we protect ourselves from cyberbullies as well as preventing the poisonous nature of social media from overpowering our perception of reality.

Despite this negativity, social media and digital devices do have benefits, which have made them an essential aspect of modern society.

Instant communication allows relationships to be maintained across the globe. Additionally, online platforms such as, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter have allowed young people to create new media material, such as online campaigns, videos, and blogs, promoting creativity on a new scale. Careers based on social media have also shown the positive aspects of the digital sphere.

Despite the positives of modern day technology, it is essential that we achieve a balance between the intensity of the digital world and real life. Recently, I embarked on a three week digital detox when I took a trip to Sri Lanka. In cutting myself off from social media, I was able to fully immerse myself in the new culture. It was refreshing to escape the distraction of constantly receiving messages and the pressure to take ‘aesthetic’ pictures or selfies for Instagram, whilst searching for Wi-Fi everyday.

It is possible to go ‘cold turkey’, leaving your phone at home and jetting off across the world to digitally detox. But for most of us a more realistic and less stressful approach is to ease yourself into it. Turning off your push notification stops your phone from lighting up every few minutes, as we all know it can be hard to resist checking Instagram likes, Twitter retweets and Snapchat messages. Turn on airplane mode or nightmode, to prevent any messages from distracting you when you’re studying or when you need disconnecting. When working, removing your phone from your immediate reach or eyesight is essential to prevent digital procrastination.

Social media and technology is fun and beneficial. However, considering the negatives, we should all take a break from time to time, look up from our phones, socialise with the people around us, and stop obsessing over what others are doing.

image: stevepb via flickr

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