From Buzzfeed, to Reddit, to Pinterest, the list goes on; the blogs that pop up on your news feeds promising success are endless. There are now tips and tricks for basically any “how-to” you’re in need of. If you have a Facebook account, which the majority of the student population does, chances are you have stumbled across these articles, and even if you haven’t read one, you understand the general idea of what they’re doing. All of these mediums of social media have affected our culture in countless ways. While you’re aware that most of these popular articles are written by average people just like me and you with the simple intention to provide others with entertainment, you might not be aware of how much these articles are negatively affecting you.
Whether or not you’re interested in the ideas or are reading it purely out of boredom, it’s going to influence you simply by the fact that you’re reading it. Hopefully you’re smart enough to acknowledge that the information is not exactly legitimate. What I really want to explain is why this stuff isn’t harmless. You are actively filling your brain with garbage. Yes, this stuff is great when you’re desperate for anything to distract you from your essay, but what you do not realize is that you’re feeding your brain with unprofessional advice on what someone believes to be the do’s and don’ts on how to live your life. Is this really the quality of information you want to be filling your free time with? You overlook these facts behind the process that goes into the articles because they illustrate recognizable shared ideas held by the bulk of our society. In one way or another, you experience these ideas society holds as “normal” due to the culture of our generation.
You’re probably asking yourself, “What is the problem with partaking in this if it’s simply for entertainment?” and the truth is there really is no problem with it. The problem lies with the fact that this stuff is considered “normal” in our culture, but these accepted “ways of life” so many of us indulge in are potentially dangerous – and no, not that kind of provocative danger. Participating in these activities is ultimately feeding your addiction to technology, which is perpetuated by our society. When the food industry was revolutionized and all types of foods became easily accessible, people had to learn to monitor their diets and it is a continuous struggle to this day! Just because sugar and junk food are readily available for consumption, does not mean it is okay to eat it all day. While it’s probably something you dream about doing, you resist it because you know it’s unhealthy. So, the same goes with technology… just because it’s everywhere around you, doesn’t mean you have to indulge in it 24/7. Ultimately, you must learn to monitor your technological appetites just as you monitor your food diets to lead a healthier lifestyle.
So what exactly is this constant access of technology doing to us and how can we fix it?
Four effects technology is definitely having on your life and four quick fixes to control your technological appetites:
1) An awkward group of young adults – Society has not only turned into one massive group of awkward individuals, this dependence on technology also contributes to the vast amount of stress and anxiety people are experiencing today. We’ve become so comfortable communicating through our phones and laptops that we’ve lost touch with basic human interactions. Walking through the halls at school, we stare at our phones to avoid talking to others and rarely even stop to say “hi” to people we know or even don’t know (yes, people used to say “hi” to complete strangers not so long ago). You may tell yourself it’s because you don’t want to have to stop and talk on your way to class… but why has this nonverbal form of communication become acceptable? It’s because technology makes us feel there is no need for interaction when we can just send that person a text or quickly lurk their Facebook profile to see what’s going on in their lives.
Quick fix: Practice taking your eyes off your screen when walking around school and say “hello” or even give a friendly smile to someone. How much does the thought of doing this make you squirm? Right, point proven. Basic interactions like this will improve your social and professional life in the future, and give your eyes a break from the stimulation of your screen.
2) Brain dead – There is a lack of critical thought on two different levels: those who write these online articles and blogs are rarely required to filter through an editor, which allows for bad grammar, spelling, form and (almost always) false information. In turn, this transfers over to the readers, and even though you may recognize the informal nature of the text, it is still being processed into your brain whether or not you want it to. Once you have read it, you cannot unread it… it’s like thinking of your hot professor naked, you can’t just unsee that! (You definitely just pictured it right? #sorrynotsorry).
Quick fix: Choose how you spend your time wisely. If you’re bored, read a book or a magazine or at least a blog with an editor… while the information may still be garbage, the writing skills will hopefully be evidence that the English language is appreciated. If you say you don’t care to be educated when you read, you’re lying; if you didn’t want to be an educated individual, you wouldn’t be in university.
3) Chill out – Whatever this may mean to you, it more than likely includes some various types of stimulation being thrown your way. Whether it is on the computer, phone, TV, or even a public space there’s a constant flow of information and communication coming at you. As a result, we no longer know the meaning of being alone, because even when we are alone we are still connected and have therefore developed a dependence on others.
Quick fix: Take a little break from this constant connection once in a while and learn to be truly alone. Even if it is just a few minutes from your day, making the time is worth it. Use technological communication for what it is there for — to connect with friends and family — however don’t allow it to completely take over your life. Just because you can communicate 24/7, does not mean you need to. The idea of never-ending conversations is completely unnatural. In real life, there is no way you could actually talk to someone nonstop unless you’re attached at the hip. Break away from this routine once in a while and learn to be happy being alone.
4) Self-image – These articles and quizzes set up guidelines on how to live that are constructed on shared ideas of right/wrong, good/bad, and do/don’t by society. Essentially, you’re letting it build a self-image based off your response to the article or your results from a quiz. Moreover, think of how much your self-image has become subconsciously influenced by the amount of Instagram likes or birthday wishes on your Facebook wall. You unknowingly give social media consent to define your self-worth.
Quick fix: Stop caring about these meaningless aspects of social media that affect who you are, and don’t allow it to influence how you see yourself and how you should live.
With such easy access to technology at all times, it’s easy to be influenced by what all of these online suggestions are telling you to do. You don’t need to follow a list about dating or what you should know by the time you’re twenty. There are no rules to how life should be lived and I think we get too caught up in worrying what the online world is telling us. Take a break from the cyberspace and remember that no one can tell you what to do, but you.