Disconnecting when being interconnected

One student’s thoughts on why we should consider putting our phone away and living in the present

I’m sure all of you who have smartphones have experienced some sense of guilt for devoting so much time to them every day. We are being reminded daily of the amount of time we spend in front of our screens. We live in a virtual world, where we maintain and develop connections, at the cost of engaging with those who are physically present. Why is it that despite having contact with others at our fingertips at all times, we still feel lonely?

According to Psychology Today, we are being haunted by a “loneliness epidemic,” where those of us who spend the most time on social media feel the most lonesome. Even if you have deleted all social media off your phone, you are still susceptible to this epidemic. Studies have revealed that the relentless use of mobile phones leads us to experience anxiety, depression, isolation and loneliness. Face-to-face interactions are losing value as we feel closer to our friends and family by nurturing relationships virtually. We are only drifting away from the reality in which we are living.

For those of us who use our phones as a means of sustaining connections with those far away, it is harder to find balance between living in the present and being elsewhere. We are victims of being virtually connected while in the presence of those we love, thus isolating ourselves even further. We are completely addicted to constantly checking the time, the weather, Instagram, Facebook, you name it; all of these are distractions that affect us more than they benefit us. According to The Telegraph, we are spending approximately 24 hours per week on our phones. Can you imagine being in front of your screen for a whole day non-stop? Of course you can, because this is our weekly reality.

We are prioritizing the virtual world over the real world. We feel empty as we try to capture every moment for social media and friends, and are not enjoying the present while we’re in it. This strikes a nerve because we are constantly seeking entertainment and wasting our time by overindulging in our cellphones.

I think it’s sad when a couple or a group of friends are sitting at a restaurant, scrolling down their screens instead of talking to each other. I feel bad for those who are in the middle of a forest recording every moment for their Instagram story. But the truth is that we have all done those things.

I know it sounds cheesy, but we should really be living in the present. No one truly cares about what we are doing anyway—you are aware of that yourself as you skip/scroll through other people’s stories or messages. Scrolling through our social media can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction with our own lives as we compare it to the perfect reality of those portrayed through pretty filters and thought-out captions.

The chronic need to check our phones prevents us from relaxing and checking in with ourselves. Rather than connecting with each other, we are disconnecting from our real lives and from the present. The first step in spending less time on our phones is to recognize the fact that we have a problem. Putting our phones down more often will help us obtain a clearer mindset. If you want to go further, maybe a real alarm clock will be the solution to late nights and morning screen scrolls. These are small steps that can have a big impact—why not start today?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.

Student Life

Disconnect virtually to reconnect to reality

How a social media detox might benefit everyone’s health

For many of us, our phones are the first thing we look at when we wake up and the last thing we look at before going to sleep. According to a 2014 report conducted by the Media Technology Monitor, social media is widely used on a daily basis in Canada. In fact, over half of Canadians are signed up to at least one social media platform, and over 79 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 16 and 26 are connected to at least one platform.

Social media platforms were engineered with the goal of helping people communicate and connect them together. However, it seems the opposite might be happening. Psychological and sociological research is increasingly linking anxiety and depression to social media.

A 2016 study conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found a direct correlation between heavy social media use and depression in young adults.  The effects are also being felt in the halls of schools. Research conducted by sociology and anthropology Concordia professor, Francine Tremblay, found the engagement of students in school has been affected by technology. “Students seem to be detached,” said Tremblay.

In Tremblay’s opinion, students should focus more of their time and energy prioritizing their well-being and their studies. “You are studying to succeed… A bachelor’s degree is extremely demanding. You are the most important thing right now,” said Tremblay.

It’s no wonder some students need a break from technology. Alexa Pepper, a communication studies student at Concordia, decided it was time for a detox when she noticed how much her social media use was feeding her anxiety. She decided cut herself off from social media for a week, and for her, it was a very positive experience. “I needed to focus on me… I was doing fun things and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything,” said Pepper about her experience.

Pepper said the break taught her that she didn’t actually need social media to function and be happy, but she likes the idea of being able to log in when she wants to. “It teaches you self-control,” said Pepper.

For political science student Emma Nablsi, as she embarked on her detox mission, she thought: “If previous generations could do it, why can’t I?” When she felt social media was weighing her mood down and affecting her sleep, Nablsi decided to go on a month-long social media detox. “It was honestly the best time I’ve ever had…because you can live life the way you’re supposed to. I was more social, and I felt that I was in contact with people,” said Nablsi.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

She said she detoxed to challenge herself and to focus more on her real, non-virtual social life.  “It’s like a medicine, a treatment, a kind of therapy. It heals you from the inside and the outside,” said Nablsi.

Performance creation major Tiernan Cornford believes she’s never missed out on anything in the ‘real world’ because she limits her social media use. Cornford is only active on Snapchat. She believes this has permitted her to have a controlled relationship with social media.

“I didn’t want to be on it all the time and be on this crutch. I like talking to people in person,” she said. Cornford said, when you don’t have social media, or decide not to go on it for a while, the people who want to get in touch with you, will. This ‘fear of missing out’ is a common source of stress among young adults.

For Nablsi, the social media detox was “an eye-opening experience.” Nablsi and Pepper said they now realize that the virtual world of social media just isn’t that important. It took them taking a break from it to realize it.

Research conducted in 2016 by McMaster University researchers found that most students can’t control themselves when it comes to social media. The survey found 48 per cent of McMaster’s students couldn’t control their social media use, and 29 per cent weren’t able to control their instant messaging.

“[Today], everything is being turned into an urgent matter,” said Tremblay. She said social media has become a compulsion for many young adults, and of course, a health issue. While the students mentioned above have been able to detach themselves from social media, it is becoming increasingly hard for most students to do so.

If keeping up with social media is making you feel anxious, stressed or depressed, know that it’s something you can put a stop to. You can try your own social media detox, or talk to a health specialist at Concordia’s Health Services.

We asked Concordia students what they think about a social media detox. Watch below for their reactions.

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