A few months ago I found myself swamped with communication, and let’s face it there are so many ways to get in touch with someone these days, the mind boggles as to how we coped before the internet and mobile phones.
You used to have 3 basic options, you could physically stand in front of someone to chat, call them on their home phone, or send them a letter, that was it. Now we can text, WhatsApp, SnapChat, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tweet etc, etc. As if that wasn’t enough we can do this from anywhere with a cellular signal, you literally have to be halfway up a mountain or in the middle of the Pacific to get some peace and quiet.
The impact it had on me nearly brought me to breaking point, I had messages flying at me from all directions, some of them for work, some personal and some unsolicited from people trying to get me interested in their wares, or offer me a new job. Suffice to say I was ready to jack it all in, turn off the phone and go and hide under a rock.
To quote Bilbo Baggins “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
What had made this even worse way I had the bright idea that I could manage this torrent of information better if I had one of those smart watches. After all I am the resident geek, and this is what we do, we buy tech, mainly because it looks cool, but we also convince ourselves it will make our lives easier.
I should perhaps be sitting here telling you to utilise all social media, Pin this, Insta that, Facebook this, share on LinkedIn, slide into someone’s DM…
If we are talking about your business, then there certainly is a great case to be made for employing these channels to increase brand awareness. However, I’m talking about the personal cost, to each and every one of us. Moreover, being a father now, I am mindful of just what impact this could have on my son. I existed before the internet, he has not, I have grown up with WWW and have adapted to it, so it’s probably easier for me to notice the difference in myself, and that something had to be done.
There were various steps that have lead to me regaining my sanity, they may not all apply to you, and you may enjoy consuming post after post on your seven favourite social media channels. If you’re happy doing it, and don’t feel there are any ill effects, the choice is yours to carry on. Here’s how I stepped back from the precipice.
The first change was not one I had instigated, but it was a welcome one, at work we were using several different systems to communicate with each other, and items were being lost, or not received and acted upon in time, so we simplified, aggregated and found a solution where we only needed two main systems where before we had used five. A nice side effect was it saved the company money.
This triggered the next step, seeing that less was definitely more, I proceeded to delete my accounts from LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I hardly used them, and removing the apps from my phone saved me space (on my phone and in my life), cut the annoying messages in half and generally quietened down my already over stressed brain. I have vowed never to return to these four, and so far I don’t even miss them.
The third step was that pesky Smart Watch, when you first get it, you think great, I can see who text me, who is calling me, my WhatsApp comes through on it… after a couple of months of living with it, I stopped charging it, didn’t want it on my wrist, and I have since given it away to a friend. I’ve gone retro, I am after all a kid of the 80’s, when the digital watch was all the rage. I have a Casio watch now that I got off eBay for £20, it tells the time, is waterproof, doesn’t spend half the day vibrating because I got an email, and the battery should last several years.
The final step was a break from work, which came along in a timely fashion in the form of Christmas, never had I needed a break so much.
Now after that de-clutter I can feel the old me emerging once again. I still spend all day writing code, fixing all things computer, but once I am out of the office that is it. No social media apps on my phone, only personal emails on my phone.
Unfortunately I think the tech companies such as Facebook and Apple have done their jobs well, they have managed to get so many people hooked on the most addictive drug around… dopamine.
Children today are hardly without their phones, and we hear terrifying stories of how cyber bulling has lead to the death of teenager.
What are we doing to our kids?
It’s a fine line I know, you can’t deny them completely because then they get bullied for not being as up to date as all the other kids.
You have to remember that you are one of the biggest influences on your children, if you sit there glued to that small screen, then so will they.
It’s a sad fact that the root of a lot of these problems stem from kids with rich parents, who simply give their kids everything as it saves them from having to actually have to be a parent. The greed we have as a society, the need for status symbols means we are losing the next generation.
I saw a screenshot of a tweet, which whilst quite amusing, was rather a sad indictment of just how desperate we are to stay connected. It was regarding a basketball game where one guy was wearing Apple wireless earphones and a smart watch, apparently this chap answered a call mid-game and scored a three pointer whilst doing it. Yes, it’s funny, but how sad is it that he couldn’t just disconnect for an hour to enjoy his game of basketball.
Even when simply walking to and from work I see people coming towards me, phone in hand, oblivious to the world around them, I have witnessed people nearly walk into traffic, smack into lampposts, or walk into bushes because they are vaguely aware I am there, but pay no heed to the remainder of their environment. Do I laugh? Yes. But then I come back to how dangerous this is, for goodness sake, if you want to message or tweet, stand still for 30 seconds, it won’t kill you, not watching where you are going just might.
I find myself applying other simple rules too, I generally won’t answer any message before 9am, and after 10pm. I generally get the sarcastic ‘Oh you are alive then’ when I do answer. This is also part of the problem, a lot of people believe simply because you can message me instantly, I should instantly message you back. Maybe that’s why I’m less stressed than they are, maybe they haven’t yet realised just how badly they are being manipulated.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m cured of social media… I still have Facebook… but only because I actually need to have it for work. I will still get Facebook up on my phone (via the browser), but I generally use it as a way to look at interesting stories. I only follow particular groups such as Sky Sports and National Geographic. All of those folk who like to post a picture of every mortal meal they eat, or the ones that rattle on about going to the gym have been removed from my timeline.
I also refrain from getting involved in many discussions, because of the immense stupidity that rears it’s ugly head… seriously, everyone should have to undergo an IQ test before they are allowed on the internet. Why is it that we have so many vapid individuals that only have time to mock and bully?
On a few occasions, I simply comment with “I am Groot”, safe in the knowledge that my argument cannot be beaten, and if you don understand that, you need to watch more Marvel movies.
There are over a billion webpages at your finger tips, you can learn about anything you want, Egyptology, quantum physics, creative writing, web development, cookery, arts and crafts, diy, the list goes on.
But no… all @BanterBoy2000 wants to do is mock @KarenTheUnicorn because he thinks she is overweight, or her nose is too big. Why? Do you really have nothing better to do with your time?
So here’s my advice, understand exactly what these big tech companies are doing, they don’t care about you, they just need you to use their service so they can sell your data, or stick adverts in front of your for products that nobody needs. Set yourself some rules and stick to them, to hell with what other people think, don’t disappear down the rabbit hole like I nearly did.
And finally, next time you are on your platform of choice, try complementing someone, give someone some support… #LiftSomeoneUpToday