Healthy Online Habits

dylan and guitar

Health in Digital World

Bob Dylan once forecast “The Times They Are a Changin” in his 1964 classic of the same name. If times were changing in 1964 I think we can safely say that times are changing at a far greater speed today with wide ranging benefits and consequences both physically, mentally and socially.

Today we are living in a digital world obsessed with portable devices delivering social media and endless information to the palm of our hand 24/7. A huge portion of the population (myself included at times) are bordering on Obsessive Compulsive Disorders by relentless checking of social media eg. facebook, twitter, instagram as well as email and other forms of digital communication. At times I have found myself so inefficient and distracted from my work by continually checking my mobile device for messages and emails that just weren’t there, or if they were there they certainly did not require my attention at that specific moment. In fact, when I sit and think about it logically, 95 per cent of the digital things that take my attention away from my work or just being present with whatever it is I am doing in my day either don’t require my attention at all or can certainly wait until I have finished the task at hand.

Social Media Guidelines

So why is it we are so obsessed with checking our devices for messages that aren’t important or relevant to what we are doing at the time? What is driving this need for digital stimulation at the expense of mindfulness and being present with whatever it is we are doing at that moment?

I have seen many instances in public and even in my own home where attention to electronic devices clearly outranks human communication. Where couples sitting at a table in a restaurant are glued to their mobile phones rather than engaged in their own company. Is this an emerging failing in society and dealing with our new found obsession or just a sign of the times?………. Is it ok to ignore the sales assistant while making a purchase due to checking a facebook update? Or to check instagram while your child is delivering a speech at a school assembly?

Whilst we are learning to deal with our changing world it may be helpful to implement some social media guidelines before we are all consumed by our new found obsession at the expense of the basic need for human communication.

Everyone will have a different level of tolerance but here are some social media guidelines to consider.

  • Silence your mobile device when on a date or out to dinner. (Be present in the moment with those you are with)
  • Commit to never checking social media while driving (Checking a mobile device while driving is not only dangerous for yourself but other road users also)
  • Use social media for the purpose it was intended. (To keep you informed and connected not as a tool for negative venting)
  • Every notification does not need your urgent attention. (Learn to ignore notification signals and only check your phone when it is appropriate and convenient)
  • Don’t use your phone in the bedroom. (Bedrooms are for rest, sleep and passion not instagram, twitter and facebook)
  • Monitor and create appropriate rules around your children’s use of social media and time spent looking at screens.

Addiction and Human Connection

Smartphone addictionClose friends sitting together and laughing

As the information age evolves and we are exposed to relentless marketing and new product releases from the technology giants of our world, it is becoming increasingly important to be aware of our changing behaviors to ensure social media safety. Implementing strategies around internet and social media use for ourselves and our families will help guide us into an exciting ever changing future without eroding our basic human, person to person, communication skills.

Our fascination with technology, the internet and social media is fast becoming the world’s greatest addiction whilst at the same time creating disconnect in more traditional forms of communication. A recent “Ted” talk, by British Journalist Johann Hari, challenges traditional thinking about addiction and how to overcome it. It appears the opposite of addiction is not sobriety or abstinence, but human connection.

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