I have a love-hate relationship with digital technology, the internet and social media platforms. It is both productive, in that it has made doing things easier and faster, but also destructive, in that it has made us humans less likely to think for ourselves and be less present in what is happening around us, including our interactions. I have categorized my thoughts and feelings under ‘The Good’, ‘The Bad’, and then ‘Adapt’, so that whilst we embrace the good, we become more mindful and in control of the bad.
The internet has created a more efficient and accessible learning environment for us. No longer is there an excuse for not being able to develop and grow in every aspect of our lives. There is a plethora of things at the click of a button. Skills can be upgraded, new skills learnt, and all of this in our own time, at our own pace, and sometimes for free. Development of self has never been easier.
For an individual growing up in a poor family, with no funds or an awareness of how to access tertiary education, I didn’t think it was ever going to be possible for me to enter the world of formal learning. But thanks to learning platforms like GetSmarter, I was able to do courses in Human Resource Management, Practical Labour Law, and the Foundations of Executive Coaching. The skills I learned enabled me to grow, to develop and implement HR processes and systems, and to offer an HR service focused on not just the day-to-day operations of an HR Department, but also on the wellbeing and development of other people.
Another way these platforms have been incredible is in enhancing business operations. From being able to schedule meetings in minutes, to being able to connect people from anywhere in the world. Communicating with groups of individuals all at once by emailing or messaging in order to provide and receive updates on projects, making decisions, etc., at a speed many years ago would have been unimaginable.
Along with communicating for business purposes, there is also the immense value of being able to connect with family and friends. Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp video call, etc., have made it possible for my husband, my children and I to connect with my husband’s dad and aunt regularly, and on special occasions, despite living on opposite sides of the world. If we miss our Sunday night 7pm Skype video call, it leaves a huge incompleteness in our week. This has been phenomenal in building the relationship between our children and their grandparents despite the physical distance. This past Christmas we were unable to get together, so we even did our traditional Christmas Eve card opening, and Christmas Day present opening together via Skype video call. It was so special, and is yet another deposit in our special bank of memories.
Overall, I don’t believe that anyone could ever argue just how life changing these platforms have been to us all.
Digital technology has, however, made life a bit more complex than it has to be. We have become so dependent on a device to keep us connected, that if the device breaks, or the internet or social media platform doesn’t work, we are overcome with frustration, and sometimes even real sadness. We feel our world might fall apart because we are not connected. Trust me though, it will not.
As much as there is good in WhatsApp for example, it is one of my biggest hates because of one particular user. This user is my husband. In his line of work, he has over 30 active WhatsApp groups at any given time. His job is a 24/7/365, so like many others, he never switches off. This in itself is problematic, but that’s a post for another day. From early morning to late at night, his phone is going. Thankfully his notifications are on vibrate only. It is so bad, that if my husband isn’t distracted by his phone for just 15 minutes, it is an exception. The only peace is when he is asleep or flying, and there is no, or limited access to Wi-Fi on the plane. Does this or even a bit of it sound familiar to you?
Social media has become an addiction to some. There is so much comparing of ourselves to others because of their lives on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, for example. There has always been the impact of models in magazines on females in particular, but now there is the bigger impact of social media ‘celebrities’ and the massive amount of influence they carry. You feel you don’t match up, and this leads to depression. Learn to love and value yourself. Our differences and our circumstances is what makes us all unique.
The flip side of this addiction is that your every moment, for some around eight to ten hours a day, is spent on YouTube, binge watching day in and day out. We no longer go out to meet people. Whatever happened to meeting real people you can relate to and build relationships with? This is why Social Anxiety Disorder has also become such a big issue. In the ‘old days’ you were either an introvert or an extrovert. And yes, us introverts are still not social butterflies, but in the world we live in today, digital technology has removed us from having real, intimate, human connections.
How many people have been the victim of cyber-bullying? How many of our children’s lives have been put in danger because of horrible people who want to bring harm to them? How many lives have been lost texting while driving? We need to create a lot more awareness around these, and we need to stop if we do this to ourselves and others.
What I have experienced in the workplace about social media platforms, is also how much it impacts workplace productivity. From everyone checking and updating social media profiles on their employer’s time, to watching YouTube video’s on our employer’s time. It distracts you so you lose your focus, it messes with your time management, and it could get you to lose your job. Is it really worth it? My recommendation is to create boundaries. Boundaries such as not checking your personal social media accounts during working hours, switch off your notifications, and focus on what you need to do to get the job done. Also don’t allow a fear of missing out to overpower you. Take ownership of your priorities, balance all things in your life, and commit to being fully present in your responsibilities.
So yes, digital technology has been life changing in so many good ways. I have just mentioned a few. But we have allowed it to make us a bit stupid, we have become addicted, and any kind of addiction is not good for our wellbeing. It has made us less self-reliant, less personable, and not because its forced on us, not because it controls us, but because of the choices we make. Because we have allowed it to become a part of us that is all-consuming. It’s always healthier to have small, controlled doses of a good thing. I have only mentioned a few social media platforms in this post, but there are so many. Use them in the ways it was intended, to make our busy lives more manageable, to keep abreast with current news in all things, to engage with anyone in the world, and to have fun.
We need 21st century thinkers who are strong enough to build a society where self-development, self-reliance, discipline and human interaction will forever be at the forefront of us being. Be more mindful, use what should be a good thing, wisely. Do this for yourself, for your children, and our future generations to come.
Until next time…
Yours in Adapting & Being