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Addicted to Social Media? Do we need a ‘digital detox’?

We were having a meal out recently. As we looked around the busy restaurant, there were people at 10 tables. Apart from ourselves, only 1 other table had people talking to each other. The other 8 tables had a single person, a couple or a larger group where a smartphone or tablet was being used. So, are we addicted to social media?

In a recent Communication Market Report, Ofcom, noted the impact of personal digital platforms on our personal and working lives. The sample survey, (2025 adults and 500 teenagers) indicated that both groups ‘spend more time on media and communications, on a daily basis’, than sleeping. Wow!

Society is split over the positive and negative impact of this growing trend. There are positives: such as the importance of being connected to friends, access to knowledge, being entertained and feeling safe. The negatives include not being able to spend enough time on other activities, (such as housework, homework, relationships, exercise…), neglecting face to face contact with family and friends, the stress of always being available and unable to forget work. It is so easy to forget what is happening around you. You forget about being in the present, enjoying ‘the moment’.

An article by Nick Collins in the Telegraph, commented on the growing number of people affected by what has been labelled as ‘Facebook addiction’. Research by the University of Bergen identified a link between addiction symptoms of anxiety and insecurity and a compulsive need to use social networking sites. The University of Chicago investigated the ‘desires’ and ‘urges’ from over 250 people and found that alcohol and tobacco prompted lower levels of desire than the need to check social network sites! 80% of parents (as reported by Matt Warman from the Telegraph) fear that their children could get addicted to social network sites. 30% of parents stated that they believe that the web can ‘rewire’ a person’s brain. I was passing through a College recently. The weather was nice, yet the indoor space was packed with lots of students busy on their phones and tablets, all busy ‘networking’ away. Possibly they were checking up on their assignments(!) However, it does seem that for some people it may be more appealing to do this than actually interacting with the person sitting beside them! Where will all this take us in the next ten years?

The Ofcom Report also commented on the issue that adults are aware of this and an increasing number are having ‘digital detox’ periods when the phones and tablets are left at home. As well-being consultants, we have clients who feel that open and free accessibility through their phones and tablets leaves them with a negative balance when it comes to their overall life balance and relationships.

So, is it time to consider a ‘digital detox’?

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