Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for centuries as a day to show love and affection for those special someones in our lives. Even as school children, many of us have fond memories exchanging valentines with our class and it being a day of feeling loved and appreciated.
The human connection, including the exchanging of cards, flowers, and candy, help increase our feeling of wellbeing and feeling close to others. But somewhere between the 14th and 21st centuries technology has changed how we interact with each other, and human connection has taken a hit.
As we’ve “connected” more via technology rather than in person, studies are showing an alarming uptick in loneliness, especially among teens. But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the advances of technology, while still unplugging and re-engaging with the human element.
At Twin State Technical Services, while we’re IT & digital wizards, we’re also big believers in connecting face-to-face with our community. There’s nothing like that human interaction to engage your spirit. We enjoy hosting lunch and learns, attending Hogtoberfest, and an evening of “high stakes” bowling regularly.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to share some of the things you should know about the dangers of spending too much time online, and ways you can disconnect from the screen and reconnect with family and friends.
What are the Dangers of Spending Too Much Time Online?
In the early days of computers and video games, everything was an exciting new world as we discovered novel ways we could have fun and socialize online. But now that we’re two decades in, scientists are finding that we’re losing something very important while staring at the screen.
The average person touches, swipes, or clicks their phone 2,617 times a day. (Dr. Josh)
Video Game & Social Media Addiction
The World Health Organization (WHO) added excessive gaming as an official mental health disorder in 2018. The prevalence of social media has also fostered an addictive use of these platforms, often to the user’s detriment.
It’s found when teens and others don’t get the same amount of “likes” or comments it can cause a host of serious psychological risks such as:
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of isolation
- And can activate addictive centers of the brain
Kid Safety Online
Children are getting their own smartphone at younger and younger ages. It’s not unusual to see a child barely out of diapers swiping a mobile device screen like a pro. But there are all types of dangers out there online that could impact your child’s health and wellbeing if their screen time isn’t monitored, such as:
- Accidentally posting private information
- Disguised viruses and malware
- Hidden in-app purchases
- Negative impacts of losing human connection
Mental Impacts of Too Much Time Online
The negative impacts of losing that human contact and being online too much are felt across all age groups, not just kids. Texting has caused people to feel what Psychology Today calls “phantom-vibration syndrome” where they think their phone is vibrating with an incoming message, but it’s not.
Too much screen time can also lead to people feeling anxious, lonely, and compulsive and creates changes in the brain that mirror those of drug and alcohol addicts.
Tips for Unplugging and Fostering More Human Interaction
Of course, everyone’s not just going to toss their devices away, we do rely on them in today’s technology driven world. But there are things you can do to re-engage with the human element around you and greatly minimize the negative effects of too much time online for you and your family.
Here are a few tips from the Twin State Technical Team to encourage more human interaction in your life.
Set Family “No Tech Times”
Schedule particular times of day during the week and weekend where everyone turns off their devices. Plan a game night (board game that is) or just an old fashion hanging out and talking about anything together. You’ll find you learn a lot more about your loved ones without texts or Facebook pings distracting everyone.
Chart Screen Time
While it may be painful to learn exactly how much time you (or your loved ones) spend online, it can be an eye-opening experience and a needed catalyst for changing your screen habits. Even Apple has recognized this and added screen time monitoring to a recent iPhone update.
Turn Off Non-Vital Alerts
Do you really need to know the instant someone “likes” your Instagram post? Experts say that it takes about 20 minutes to get back to the exact place we were mentally on a task after an interruption.
All those pings can make anyone feel anxious and like they can’t get anything done and can instantly drag you away from a real face-to-face conversation. Turn off all alerts that aren’t absolutely vital, and you’ll find you’re more relaxed overall and better able to engage with other human beings in person.
Get Active Away from Screens
Things like going for regular walks, bike rides, or doing yoga in the backyard together can strengthen personal relationships while also reducing our reliance on technology to give us a false sense of gratification. Schedule non-tech activities that will feed both your body and your mind.
While it’s convenient to have that Kindle book to peruse while on an airplane, there’s something about reading a real book and turning the physical pages that keeps us connected with our offline world. Whether you read to your children or enjoy reading yourself, buy or check out from the library more “offline books” to reduce screen time dependence for you and your family.
Need Some Help Instituting a Healthy Screen Time Plan?
Whether you’d like to create more of a work/life balance for employees or need a starting point for keeping your children safe online, Twin State Technical Services can help you strike the right balance between the positives of technology and the negatives.
We’re here to help you reconnect offline, give us a call today at 563-441-1504 and speak to one of these friendly humans.