Opinion: Is social media ruining our lives?

Is social media ruining our lives? The short answer is yes.

In my opinion, social media sites are the greatest and worst thing to ever be created. They are great because it has helped bring so many people closer together from all four corners of the world. Yup, it’s great to see good ole Aunty Gladys, who lives in Plockton, Scotland using social media to stay in touch with her nephew Willie who lives in Matamata. That side of social media I think is great, because, without it, poor ole Aunty Gladys would be waiting for 2 – 3 weeks to get a letter from Willie via snail mail, so I think it’s awesome.

The side I don’t like is where people feel the need to live on social media as it’s far more interesting than the life they live or have around them.

I remember watching an advertisement on TV where a young man is walking along staring at his phone (with earphones in) and if it wasn’t for the fast-thinking actions of a nearby woman, he would’ve been hit by a bus as he went to walk off the kerb to cross the street. How can you just simply ‘zone out’ and not know what’s going on around you or even where you are? It completely baffles me as to how so many people do this regularly. Wait. You think it’s not that bad? Really? Well here’s a little experiment for you to try. Head out to the nearest shopping mall or jump on some public transport in your town or city and just take note of how many people there are with their faces in their phones or earphones on so they don’t have to talk or acknowledge the person next to them. You will be surprised!

I did something similar on my last trip to Auckland for work. I went outside my hotel, watched and counted the number of people walking past. I counted 27 in total. Out of that 27, 21 of them had their faces glued to their phones or earphones in and couldn’t care less about what was happening around them. They could have dropped something or even worse have a vehicle veer towards them and they wouldn’t have known until it was too late. I was dumbfounded.

And I mean, let’s be honest, how much time do we spend online these days? Well, umm heaps. It seems on average, some people can spend up to 10 hours a day online. Wow! So if you break down the average person’s day, it will look like this:

Time spent online                         10 hours

Time spent working                      8 hours

Time spent sleeping                      6 hours

Nearly half a day spent online watching videos, Facebooking, Live Streaming, Snap Chatting, Tindering, Instagramming, etc, etc. It’s time to take your life back people.

Turn off the Wi-Fi, put down the phones, go outside, get some fresh air and learn to live offline. Believe me, if you do this every so often, you can find a true balance between technology and real life.

One of the best ways to do this is to introduce technology-free nights. Simply turn off all devices (or the Wi-Fi) and spend time talking with friends and family about what they did as opposed to reading or updating a status online. You’ll find it much more fun. In fact, if you’d like to have a great tech-free night try this. I have and it works a treat.

Arrange a dinner date with some friends, at least you plus two others, but don’t go any more than six in total (you’ll see why in a moment). Get there before everyone else and ask the restaurant staff if they have a large glass bowl you can use. As your friends arrive, ask them to place their cell phones in the bowl as you’re having a tech-free dinner. Once everyone’s arrived the fun begins. Let everyone know that they can order whatever they like, there is just one catch:

The first person to grab or answer their phone from the bowl, before the meal is officially over, is picking up the tab (see why I said no more than six people)

I’ve done this before and honestly it’s such a great night because you end talking for so long that by the time the meal’s ended, you’ve almost forgotten that you haven’t looked at your phone the entire time (unless you just happen to be fretting to answer your phone in case it was urgent). Needless to say, once we agreed the dinner date was over, some were straight back to being online while others actually weren’t in a hurry to do so.

So all in all, I still agree that technology and social media are bad for us, but if you can find a true balance between online and reality then you can make it work for you.

And as an interesting last thought, who found it ironic that I was using a social media website to blog about technology and social media? Hmm.