In today’s fast paced world, technology plays an increasingly important part of how we function on a day-to-day basis in practically every aspect of our lives from working effectively in our jobs to how we enjoy our leisure time and even to how we interact with our friends and family.
Social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram allow people to share much more of their lives than ever before. The introduction of gay dating sites and mobile apps like Grindr and Scruff have opened up new and exciting opportunities to meet potential partners which would never have been possible even as little as ten years ago.
However the pervasive nature of technology – and in particular digital technology – in our lives has increased the pressures we face. From the constant ping of emails and texts coming up on our mobiles demanding to be answered to the celebrity selfies on Twitter and Instagram which affect self-esteem, we are bombarded from all sides with images and messages that create expectations based on how we perceive such influences. Not to mention the rise in cyber bullying, revenge porn and pro-ana websites. It has even been suggested that some of us now suffer from “tech envy” with 30% of office workers saying they were very envious of the devices such as iPads that their colleagues brought into work.
Technology & The Unreasonable Expectations We Set Ourselves
The benefits of digital technology are obvious in providing value and possibility to millions of people. Our lives are more efficient because of such technology and important messages on issues such as equality, education and social change can now be transmitted to a global community. Yet for all the payoffs of technology, for some being online can cause a huge cost to fulfilment and emotional wellbeing because of the unreasonable expectations that can be created. Such expectations can be anything from the expectation that you should always be available on the other end of a text, instant message or Snapchat to the damaging expectation that if your latest Instagram photo doesn’t get enough likes or you don’t have lots of followers on Twitter then there must be something wrong with you.
Although you may think you have to meet these expectations to be happy and keep up with the Joneses but actually you need to put such unreasonable expectations to one side and put your physical and emotional health first to truly ensure you live a happy and fulfilled life. The best way to do this is to shift your focus and concentrate on what you are grateful for and that which you do have. Avoid others opinions and expectations. Keep you standards high while lowering your expectations of yourself and others.
Symptoms of Technology Overload
The paradox of online technology is that whilst it connects people on social networks and increases our circle of friends across time zones, it also can have a negative impact on the quality of those friendships. A recent study suggested that the majority of respondents thought that social media had an adverse effect on friendships with many feeling that their relationships with others were more superficial because of social media. This could be because many of us use social media as a substitute to meeting friends in the real world which is not surprising as a quick like or comment online to a friend’s latest post is so easy to do and requires very little commitment or personal responsibility.
It is also not unusual for people to feel addicted to checking their social media accounts throughout the day with the focus being on Facebook updates and Twitter notifications rather than speaking to friends on the phone or meeting in person. Even those who tried to delete their accounts struggle with being offline with one in three signing themselves up again less than a week later and one in ten lasting less than 24 hours before succumbing to the need to reactive their account and go back online.
Technology Does Not Satisfy Our Need For Connection
Connection is a fundamental human need which needs to be satisfied in a healthy way to create a truly meaningful and fulfilled life. The health benefits of social interaction from the release in oxytocin during a hug to the reduced incidences of depression are greatest amongst friends who meet in person opposed to those who purely interact online.
Connecting with those you care about on social media only adds a small element to satisfy your need for connection because research shows that the quality of your relationships is correlated to the amount of time you spend together and those who spend more time engaging in face-to-face contact with friends feel that their bond is stronger. In my experience working as a life coach over the last decade, it is the clients that cultivating their relationships in person by meeting friends face-to-face to catch up over a coffee or meal who have the best quality interactions and greatest feelings of intimacy.
Spending time online with friends should be a last resort not your first port of call. If you want to shift your focus from unhelpful social media habits to meeting friends in the real world but don’t know where to start, here are my top ten suggestions to get out from behind your handheld device and re-connect with the people that matter.
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