We become so engrossed in the virtual world that we lose track of time. How often have you given yourself permission to jump online for five or ten minutes, only to find that an hour has passed? We lose ourselves in the intrigue, the information and the funny cat videos. In a society where time has become so precious, it is ironic that we will surrender so much of it to being lost in a virtual space.
Before digital technology came into our lives, at the end of a long, physically demanding day at work we would fall into bed exhausted, waking as the sun came up to start a new day. We would go to bed early, sleep deeply and wake up refreshed. Hobbies and leisure time revolved around social connection and active or creative pursuits. They were energising, based on exploration and shared with people we enjoyed being around.
Much has changed since we began to carry our personal digital devices in our pocket or on our wrist wherever we go. Increasingly we access our hobbies through our smart watches, phones, tablets and computers. We used to see those "campervans for sale" sign and dream of getting away from it al. Now all our dreams are online. Online gaming is now one of the world’s most popular hobbies. According to Statista, online gaming has seen an exponential growth over the last five years. In 2014 there was a reported 1.82 billion active video gamers globally, with this figure growing and expected to rise to over 2.7 billion gamers by 2021.
Technology has been a wonderful vehicle for the creation of a whole new raft of hobbies. If you have ever played any of the Wii sports games or belted out a tune on online karaoke, you know how much fun technology can be. It isn’t the technology itself that is causing problems; it is the behaviours we have created around our uses of technology that have made switching off hard to do.
Much technology is designed to predict our interests, allowing us to connect with like-minded people we might never otherwise have the opportunity to meet. This has led to the explosion of the social media phenomenon. The more we connect with each other, the more we want to share. Soon we find we can tap into the secret lives of our connections and through live streaming can watch them do everything from cooking to singing in the shower to busting a move on the dance floor. We have access to people’s public and private lives — and people are happily giving it to us.
The more we connect with each other, the more we want to share.
Social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram were launched on the promise of connection through the sharing of images and videos of our lives. For those of you who aren't familiar with the platforms, Snapchat were the first to bring to market an avenue where users take real-time footage of, well, whatever they like and upload it for all to see. Seeing the popularity, Instagram came on board adding Instagram Stories in addition to their grid profile. According to Snapchat, there are 190 million active Snapchat users per day uploading 3 billion photos and videos per day. As for Instagram, over 500 million users upload 50 billion photos and 500 million Instagram Stories each and every day.
Snapchat’s website also lists things not to ‘snap’: pornography, nudity, invasions of privacy, impersonation, threats, harassment and bullying are all off limits.
Here is the one that astounds me: ‘Never post or send any nude or sexual content involving people under the age of 18 — even yourself’. It seems social platforms have to warn people not to capture themselves in a sexual act and then post the results to the world! Sometimes our need to be constantly connected and to amass an ever-growing list of online ‘friends’ has caused us to focus on relationships based on volume rather than personal and meaningful connection.
Social media and constant virtual connectedness create a context in which we live in the moment, experiencing what is happening to us right here, right now. But as we try to capture the perfect image to share with others, are we actually missing out on enjoying the moment ourselves? Are we in fact missing out on the here and now?
Again it is not the technology that is the problem but our relationship with it. The need to share every moment (or at least the good parts) isn’t restricted to youths out clubbing or hanging with friends. Imagine a mother using her smartphone to capture the moment when her young son receives an award at school assembly. She immediately uploads it to the web to share it with everyone who doesn’t have the good fortune to be there. Ironically, this prevents her from enjoying the moment itself. She misses the proud smile on her son’s face as he seeks her out for acknowledgement, while he sees only the top of her head as she works away on her phone. In our effort to record these special moments we often actually miss them in real time. It is important to remember that being in the moment is more important than capturing it. Being constantly switched on through technology is bringing people together in the virtual world, but it is causing rifts in our real-life social relationships.
Being in the moment is more important than capturing it.