Technology Addiction – Are we too connected?

When I was planning for upcoming summer vacations, I told myself as do millions of other people, that I was going to spend less time on my electronic devices and spend more time enjoying the present. So, why like myself do so many of us fail to follow through on this?

Well, for starters it is now a part of life. If you go back 15 years or even 10 years if you would have told someone that their phone or mobile device would become part of everything, we do from the alarm that wakes us up in the morning, getting your emails, checking socials, streaming the shows, news or sporting events, to even starting your car as you head out of the house for work you would have gotten some looks and eye rolls. Fast forward a decade and most of us want to be connected, and it is because of this obsession for most of us, or at least me, that I have never been able to reduce the amount of time that I spend on my devices, whether it is my iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. I blame part of it on the fact that my job is to be a professional Googler for the magazine and to find interesting topics, businesses, and people for us to feature. But the other reason, and more importantly the true reason for most of us, is that I am addicted to it and being connected so that I do not miss out.

I do not like to use the word addicted, as that is something that is usually associated with alcohol or drug use, but in this case, I feel that is the word that best describes the behavior of being compulsively committed or helplessly drawn to a practice or habit or to something psychologically or physically habit-forming. Sounds like my obsession with always having my phone. It is almost like a child’s security blanket.

Plus, we have become a society that wants to share our experiences with others. Whether it is a great meal at a restaurant or an outing with friends. This summer I had a bucket list item and that was to see Luke Combs in concert and was about to do that at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival in July. One thing that I noticed is that I took more recorded more video than I watched the artist live. Now that is great for reliving the moment and seeing one of my favorite artists but looking back could have spent that time enjoying the moment and soaking up the experience of my first live event in over three because of the pandemic.

It is not that I want to be obsessed and not take control of my tech habits, but technology companies that offer social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and now TikTok are fighting over who gets more of our screen time and user attention. But, unlike us, they have highly effective systems in place to achieve their goal of keeping us on their platform and connected and they must because that is how they generate revenue through their advertising, well as through other companies advertising on their platforms.

For more than a decade now, technology companies consciously and unconsciously exploit our behaviors and weaknesses to get us to spend more time using their products and services and engaging on their platforms. This is not a new practice for marketing a product or service just a new and very effective media for getting it to the customer. Which mean these companies along with their clients have more opportunities to sell their products, services or message to you, which is how they make money.

At its core, social media holds out the promise of connection. A key idea behind Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms is that we can create rich networks of friends, receive frequent updates from people in our lives, and build a sense of community. On these platforms, it is not uncommon for someone to have hundreds of virtual “friends or followers.” Although people may have hundreds or even thousands of online “friends and followers,” they may have few actual people in real life that they can rely on, leaving many people feeling isolated and alone.

All of this raises the question, is social media strengthening our communities, or is spending time on our phones and computers harming our ability to connect in person?

Arguments suggest that social media use can have both positive and negative impacts on its users. Whether we experience it as helpful or harmful has a lot to do with how we engage, who we relate with, and what boundaries we decide to set for ourselves in our daily lives. Instead of passively accepting the platforms as they are, we can be critical in how we engage, recognizing that if social media offers the promise of community, it is a community that we must create for ourselves.

So, what can we as users do about it? Well in my opinion we need to save ourselves, yes just as big tech has designed their apps around grabbing as much of our attention as possible, they can also design apps around truly serving the user’s needs and helping us better utilize our screen time. However, I personally think it is a decision that we must make and manage on our own.

Many platforms have implemented features to help users curb their phone and app addictions by taking a more ethical approach to the user experience, but we can’t rely solely on technology to bring us back to ourselves as users, in the end, will have to make the final choice to limit usage and spend a more time living in the moment.

by Calli Gregg