Since changing jobs at the start of the year, I have joined many people who make the daily commute to work using public transport. I sit on the train every day only to watch a panorama view of commuters face down engrossed in their phone, looking up only to check if they are approaching their stop. They are all reading radically different streams. Each person has their own silo of information drawn from Twitter and Facebook feeds, an amalgam of wide interests and friends’ social feeds. Often, when I walk down the street in the city, it is akin to a human game of ‘pin ball crazy’ trying to weave in and out of people who are glued to their phone whilst walking.
Technological advances change the way people live. Mobile phones are no exception to this and can be found in the hands of everyone from teenagers to the elderly. Research has shown that phone use is affecting modern society in the way we talk, eat, have sex and even go to the bathroom. When it comes to the positive impacts of mobile phone ownership, mobile phones have made it “a lot” easier to stay in touch with the people we care about. They contain multiple features that allow people to conveniently access information and connect to conversations faster and easier. Features included on most smartphones today are: web and e-mail access, navigation and global map access, digital tasks and calendars, games, music and download applications, a built-in camera, instant messaging, talking and the most popular of all, text messaging. However, when it comes to the “dark side” of mobile phone ownership, phones has made it at least somewhat harder to forget about work at home or on the weekends; to give people their undivided attention; or to focus on a single task without being distracted. Indeed, having a phone in your pocket all the time isn’t necessarily the best choice for mental health. Psychology Today estimates that 40 percent of the population suffers from a fear of being without a phone, leading to symptoms such as panic and feeling sick (nomophobia).
Remember the old-fashioned adage ‘Stop to smell the roses’? If we do not take a moment to look up from our phone once in a while, we might miss the beauty of life taking place around us. There is much to be found in taking note of your surroundings, where you are, enjoying the people you are with rather than acquaintances’ recently updated news feeds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You must remember that people only show the good stuff, ‘the highlight reel’ of their life on social media. It is not a fully accurate picture and as humans we have a tendency to compare our lives to those of others but we often forget that comparison can be the thief of joy! So yes, enjoy social media and all the great things it offers but take the time to engage in real life and not the artificial one in your hand. You will be all the happier for it.