Burned out by Tech

A seasick feeling

15 FEBRUARY 2016,
Internet Addiction
Internet Addiction

Today with technology we are more closely connected than ever, yet we have never been further apart. A few years ago I convinced my father to join social media as a result of many a frustrated telephone call from him about the events he was missing out on in my life. Generally he would find out about some pretty major (and some completely irrelevant) events of my life that was being lived in a foreign country through mutual friends that I was connected with on Facebook. After leaving the UK in 2011 for Amsterdam, I did not have any work so it was a pretty big milestone when I posted “Job secured for next 3 months, happy days” on Facebook. My father who had been worrying for weeks about how I was going to find work in a different country was notably upset that he found out through someone else.

When he called to bemoan the fact I don’t tell him anything I reacted how many scolded a child does. I lamented again that Facebook was an easy way for a newly world traveler to keep everyone up to date with ones movements. He disagreed and said I should have called him… Looking back, he was right.

Fast forward three years and he is now fully integrated with social media. Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter mainly and his integration is so complete, that birthday wishes are mainly passed via WhatsApp or Twitter. However, compared to me, my father is a “n00b”. As a Radio DJ I gain much of my show material from social media, therefore I am almost permanently connected to the net. At work via PC, as well as via my Smart Phone and Smart Watch and whilst at home I have a Smart TV and personal laptop. Sometimes (often) I will be using several of these at once, checking out a film on Netflix, whilst perusing Reddit on my laptop, along with checking face book on my phone, seriously, this was a daily occurrence. I would suggest that my social media went beyond “heavy use” and into addiction.

Addiction is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. My reward was; not having to miss out, be the person that tells everyone else about what’s trending and knowing more about a trending topic than anyone else. What about the adverse consequences? Take your pick - wrist pain, inability to concentrate, a light headed dizziness akin to sea sickness, permanently needing to know where my phone is, worst of all? Complete disruption to my sleep. Let’s give a run down to the extent of my social media addiction and at the same time take a glimpse into yours.

Do you?

• Check social media the moment you wake up for the latest news?
My app opening process goes like this: Facebook - check all my recent notifications and shares, Instagram, a News App, Time hop (A social media app that aggregates all your past social media accounts into one and shows you (sometimes cringingly) what you were posting many years ago on this day. Kind of like a daily “Throwback Thursday”). After this back to Facebook, just in case I had missed something, then get on with the far more important task of getting ready for work:
• Get to work, open Facebook
Part of my duties as a radio DJ at the station is to manage the radio stations Facebook pages, I also have my own public Facebook page that I monitor for notifications and messages. Mainly I am looking for any stories, messages or responses that might be useful for the show.
• Continually check and utilize Facebook throughout the day to share interesting stories onto the pages I manage, schedule posts and tweets for the next few days.
• Leave work, pull phone out of pocket and look at Instagram and Reddit on the bus due to my work blocking these pages on my work computer.
• Get home, turn on Netflix, open laptop, browse Reddit and You Tube for anything I have missed.
• Throughout the evening periodically checking Facebook or other social media whilst watching Netflix or a movie.
• Go to bed, brushing teeth whilst reading news aggregator sites checking Facebook etc. before going to bed.

This may seem normal, or average and maybe it is. Health advisors will tell us that you should not be looking at any screens for over an hour before you go to bed, well I am generally looking over at least 2 screens until my head hits the pillow. The result is terrible sleep, verging on insomnia. I would get out of bed the next day never feeling like I had gone into a deep sleep, only a light kind of lucid dream sleep that would constantly be taken over by short, vivid, highly realistic dreams and nightmares that would wake me up. I would get under 3 hours of sleep a night, wake up the next day and do it all again.

I would get a seasick feeling at periods through the day, scientists have linked this to smart phone and computer usage, the constant scrolling and movement of films or smartphones can leave us feeling like we are travelling without moving. I did this to myself because I thought I was going to be missing out - I wanted to be the first person to share something, a celebrity death, a terrorist attack, a funny meme, I want to be the one who delivers that to you. But 99% of the time I am just scrolling through inane ramblings, or clickbait articles trying to pull you onto their websites “you won’t believe what happens in pic number 5” kind of rubbish.

Just to be clear, I am a consumer of this media and contribute little to it, I am not posting vague Facebook status’s in order to get false worry, or likes. It is very rare that I voice opinions online, unless it is a throwaway comment, or tag line on an article I am sharing. Eventually though, the wrist pain, the insomnia and the irritability has got to stop. If you read this and find that you too experience some of these symptoms then perhaps it is time that you took some steps to get it under control.

So what did I do?

• I banned ALL social media after 7pm. No smartphone, no laptop, no tablets.
• I limited the nights I was able to watch films or Netflix to certain nights forcing me to do something else with my time, such as reading, practicing guitar, or going for a walk.
• Basically ANYTHING that wasn’t watching a film, or looking through social media.

These were not MAJOR life changes; they were tweaks that I made and the result? I get more sleep, my wrist hurts less and I am no less informed, or connected than I was before - I was deluded and kidding myself that being this Omni present online was helping me to be a better broadcaster or a more connected person. These small devices that are meant to enrich our lives can become obsessions. Already, after only 2 weeks or so of my new schedule my sleep is better, my light headedness has disappeared, my wrists don’t hurt quite so much and it has made zero detriment to my online life.

I highly recommend it.