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18 November 2015

Put your phone down and go change the world

Can you imagine life before the Smartphone? OK, try a bit harder! Yep, we’ve reached that point where it’s pretty tough to recall a time where the world wasn’t at our digital fingertips. But the big question is, who’s the slave and who’s the master now? Are we really in charge or has mobile technology taken over?

Get your head around this

One study, reported by the Telegraph, suggested that we’re bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of data a day. Yes, you did read that correctly and yes, that’s an awful lot! All that wonderful wealth of information is great, but the truth of it is, we consume digital information very differently and the impact it’s having on us could be doing more harm than good.

Various researchers are suggesting that the increase in digital activity isn’t only changing the way that we consume information, it’s also changing the way we understand the world around us. Essentially, it’s rewiring our brains. Deep stuff.

Take the case of Essena O’Neill, the Australian social media starlet who pulled the plug on her glittering career at the tender age of 18 claiming it was ruining her life. No, this was not the diva tantrum of an over-pampered princess; in a passionate video, the teenager claimed that social media had left her incredibly insecure and distorted her own view of reality.

Her reaction has been supported by others who claim the ‘age of the selfie’ is doing much more harm than we realise: promoting narcissism, causing insomnia and even making our kids less empathetic. Wow - that’s a list and a half to swallow.

With so much distraction, we’re also struggling to focus our attention and even to discern whether what is in front of us is actually worth our time or not. We’re careering toward information overload at a rate of knots!

Go do something great

Before you throw your Smartphone off a bridge and scurry off to bury yourself in a sound proof box in the middle of the Gobi desert, listen up! Like most of life’s little pleasures, the trick is to enjoy everything in moderation. Rather than going teetotal, think about unplugging for a while and setting a few boundaries.

Daniel J. Levitin is the director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University. He’s a pretty clever chap by all accounts, and in an article for the New York Times, he explained that, "Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend is competing for resources in your brain with important things.” Levitin suggests, “If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods." This essentially means tuning in for a bit of social media and then turning it off for a while to focus on other stuff.

His views are supported by the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who, in an interview with the Telegraph, urges people to switch off their digital devices for a day and learn to read reactions on real faces instead of likes on Facebook. Throw in a walk in the park or just watch the world go by, and you can regain a bit of that all important (non-digital) perspective.

Whilst your teachers may have told you to ‘stop day-dreaming’, Levitin explains that daydreaming actually leads to creativity. This in turn, give us the ability to have a positive effect on our environment and, ultimately, change the way we view the world.
 
So, there you have it from a bonafide expert: take a break, put your phone down and go change the world.

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