Today may be a day like every other day — consisting of our daily routines like pressing a button on our coffee machines, running the kids to school, attending the occasional meeting and the frequent checking of our phones. We may not realise it, but technology today has such an omnipresenceand has changed the way we function in our everyday lives. We use our devices around 50% more than we did ten years ago, thus it is incredible what we have managed to achieve in such a short space of time. It is crazy how it all seems so conventional now, but we have come a long way since the catastrophic internet dial-up tone we all remember from the 90’s, as well as the five minutes it took for a webpage to load. Now, we can easily get over a million results on a search in less than a second and wirelessly transfer items from one device to the next, and even to our cars. Technology is amazing; however, it does have its drawbacks.
One of the biggest advantages if technology is its ease of use and convenience. It is easy to get to grips with, and when we use them, we save a lot of time and energy in our day, even when we are doing the most tedious of activities like the food shop. The saying, “Time is money” could not ring any truer, especially now more than ever before in light of the world’s current financial crises. However, with that in mind, we spend less time doing tedious everyday things, but spend more time interacting with technology instead, so what has happened in the time we have made up in the real world, but lost to the virtual world?
Grace Roche for Cuvva.com discusses the profound effects of technology on our everyday lives, explaining one of the biggest disadvantages of technology is how we are relying too much upon having easy and instantaneous access to everything we may desire. The use of technology has literally given us the power to have the world in the palm of our hands; from ordering our food and clothes to be delivered to our doors and getting artificial intelligence to do it for us. The ease, accessibility and speed at which we are provided with what we want from companies and devices means we are receiving instant gratification which can ultimately and inevitably lead to us all becoming less patient and to some extent more frustrated when we don’t receive what we desire when expected or when done manually.
Psychology has long delved into gratification across the lifespan, more specifically though, the focus has shifted along with the new technological era and is now taking into consideration how it is impacting our relationships with others. Jim Taylor Ph.D notes in his article for Psychology Today that technology has also redefined our meaning of relationships, as such Pomerantz (2013) explores this further in her dissertation on ‘Attachment and Delayed Gratification in the Technological Age’. She acknowledges that we interact in a different way than we did in the past and as such we have created a new way to keep communicating with others and express our needs virtually, with “Generation Y” using it to their advantage to enhance feelings of comfort and minimise feels of negatively skewed feeling and emotions. In a sense, we are now able to turn our backs or disconnect when we feel uncomfortable, take for instance the ending of a phone call during a heated discussion or avoiding a message. On a positive note, the means by which we are connected now allow us to think freer and be more responsible in what we let others think and how they perceive us. As such, messaging has since become associated with the euphoric feeling of feeling loved or highly valued. However, this also signifies the lines between virtual and reality may have become blurred and we may have lost touch with how we would react if someone were to say the same things in person (Walsh, White and Young, 2008).Furthermore, in our modern day and age, it is easy for us to become tangled in the web and quite literally too. We are all a part of the World Wide Web in one way or another, as such via social media or through the press in some way. We read the news, connect and scroll through our timelines, and even sometimes express our lives and opinions on it. It is an everyday necessity now. So much so, we have begun unable to separate the real world from our virtual ideals and social media entities. Our true realities can be blinded by the eye-catching headlines and glamorous paparazzi snaps, evading the truth behind the screen and misconstruing what is really going on in our lives and the world. As such, you can feel envious and that you should be doing something far greater than what you are doing. Whilst for many of us this may be the case due to our ambition and wanting to better our lives, for others it is because they have viewed something on the internet, and they wish to be like someone else and are thus wanting to live in someone else’s false sense of reality. Believably, it is easy for us to look at something and base an opinion on it, whether it be a judgement of them, or in comparison of ourselves.
Whilst the instantaneous access allows us to be constantly aware of the world around us, it can also mean we are at a heightened state of fear and apprehension. Technology and social media have also elevated and influenced the fear of missing out, or commonly known as ‘FOMO’ in today’s society. We are relying upon the media and the internet to tell us what to do and how to get there, without consideration to real life circumstances or emotions. As such, we are more unhappy in our lives and surroundings than ever before and BBC Scotland has found it is because we are focusing on all the things we feel aren’t controllablebut really and truly are, if we only disconnected from technology for a mere second. What is more, we are also in what has been aptly named the “loneliness epidemic”,Alice G. Watson explains our dependence on our phones and in particular our interactions with social media have heightened our feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially when viewing or being a part of negative interactions online.
So how can we combat these feelings and help our interactions with the real world?
We must first look at the bigger picture, our phones and technology are an essential to our day to day lives, but not an essential part of our existence. We are more than a collection of photos and statuses, and our self-worth is not determined by the likes or how many followers we have. In the real world we make connections by talking to people, we first learn the little things about them and then we delve into the deeper conversations, getting to know one another piece by piece. Our devices help us to ask the difficult questions as we can hide behind a screen, making it easier to talk to one another as previously mentioned, but when it comes to face to face contact make sure you don’t back out of love, even when it may be scary or you might be uncomfortable.
If we took a step back from technology, and limited our usage, therefore only using it as and when needed, we could be happier and find we are leading more of a meaningful life. By being able to disconnect we are able to reconnect to ourselves and realign our feelings in accordance to who we wish to be and not who we see or want others to see. According to Forbes when we engage in real social connection (face-to-face) and make a conscious effort to be surrounded by others physically and not our devices, we perceive our activities to be more meaningful and consequently we feel more fulfilled and happier.
Of course, the times will change and a new wave of technology will soon be available, but we can’t let a false sense of reality make us lose sight of who and what we love and appreciate. Whilst technology may have changed the way we communicate, and as it stands most of our “interpersonal interactions have become imbued with an immediacy and connectedness unrelated to physical proximity". We must never let it completely void all face-to-face conversation, as without it we won’t feel or get raw emotion and understand others. Part of life is being able to understand where we are going wrong and where we are going right, perhaps in our relationships or perhaps even in our work. Technology doesn’t have to rule our lives in every domain as we must always remember, things aren’t always as they seem, and we cannot predict everything. Think of your device as a view into someone’s view of themselves, you will only see what they want you to see, and it is most likely a false image. Happiness, fulfilment or opportunities will not come from comparing, or being stationary behind a computer screen.
Thus, our message is to not become tangled in what you see, your happiness lies within you, from understanding yourself, knowing who you are and your capabilities, learning to be kind to yourself and making meaningful connections. You will know what you want, and even better you will know how to get there.