Many of us spend several hours a day tied to our devices, looking at the screen to see if we have received another "like" or a new e-mail, informing us about what is happening in the world or perfecting our online presence. It is assumed that social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter make us feel more connected, but our technological dependence to "see" the social world around us can become unbearable.
The Pew Research Center recently published that about a quarter of American adults said they were "almost constantly" online. Not surprisingly, stress, addiction, depression and anxiety are consequences of the use of these social networks that have often been specifically designed (// theconversation.com/digital-addiction-how-technology-keeps-us-hooked- 97499 (// theconversation.com/digital-addiction-how-technology-keeps-us-hooked-97499) to keep us busy repeating the same actions (// techcrunch.com/2012/03/27/pull-to- refresh-the-patent / (// techcrunch.com/2012/03/27/pull-to-refresh-the-patent/) over and over again.
Even so, for many, the idea of disconnecting is distressing or simply impossible. That's why we conducted a small study with 50 participants that might seem rare in times when our lives are dominated by electronic devices. None of the participants used social networks or had a mobile phone, even most refused to use email.
Our goal was to understand the reason why these people had decided to disconnect and how they had achieved it, but instead of looking for quick solutions to the excess of the use of social networks, we explore the principles and values that motivated our participants to live from that way. Much has been written about how to disconnect but it is of little use if we fail to experience the benefits.
This is what the participants of our study say they have learned about living their social lives off the Internet.
1. Spend time with other people
Part of the problem of social networks is that we not only use them to communicate, but also promote a particular way of being connected and supporting those around us. These interactions are channeled through the platform to create data, which is ultimately returned to data analysis companies and marketing professionals.
The participants of our study shared a deep conviction that it is possible to socialize differently, focusing on expression, contact, conversation and physical presence in the same space. For them, it is something that helps maintain a feeling of union and human connection.There's nothing like a hug.
Although this acceptance towards other people in a slower and deeper way was especially valued by the participants of our study, they also thought that it could be something valuable for society in general. Social networks are marked by an anguish of frenzy and we would all benefit if we took things more carefully and took stock more often.
Today there are many people who are intimidated by the feeling of being "always connected" and seek to resume balance and distance themselves from things that cause stress. For the participants of our study, people who did not use smartphones or social networks, associated the time they spent with other people to feelings of calm and gave meaning to their lives.
The participants of our study questioned what "social" social networks have: what constitutes communication and what do we get from the way in which sociability is measured in social networks (be it friendship, support or social contact) . Instead of having hundreds of "friends," these types of people would always prefer to meet people in person and foster relationships that support them in difficult times.
At first the idea of taking the opportunity to disconnect may cause anxiety, but the trick is to realize that turning off our devices does not mean that we are going to miss things. When you disconnect for the first time, you may spend more time with yourself, but it is in those moments when you can realize how exhausting it is to maintain online relationships and, in fact, how superficial it is to be locked in endless exchanges of trivial information
Those who choose to disconnect are not sad or socially marginalized: they are people who have freed themselves from the devices, who have escaped the overwhelming amount of information and tasks. It is clear that these people have a deep sense of connection with the world and with their loved ones.
3. Be instead of doing
Many of those who disconnected enjoyed a new vitality, because they found time to create a connection with the world here and now. This is crucial to help us readjust and relax so we can be prepared for the most stressful moments.
The time we spend browsing content may not seem to involve a lot of mental or physical effort, but the light emitted by the screen is far from relaxing. It is much less likely that we can sleep well if we share the bed with our smartphone or check the phone until we fall asleep.Does the FOMO take your sleep away?
As mindfulness becomes more popular, technology often takes advantage of its main ideas. On Instagram, for example, the most famous influencers boast their yoga level and promote spiritual disciplines. Activity meters, health data and yoga applications are usually among the most downloaded apps for smartphones.
The group of people who had disconnected said that we should be more critical of our use of our applications and begin to set aside our phone. If mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment (channeling our thoughts, feelings and sensations as they pass through our head), we don't need a device. Being constantly connected ends up, paradoxically, in less free time and the moments in which we can think without interruption provide a great refuge for the demands of everyday life.
People who chose not to be connected had not disconnected to be "antisocial", but instead did so to be in charge of when and where they connected with other people. It may be about avant-garde people who are showing us the way to new ways of being happier, of being more relaxed and of being more social. In ten years' time we may remember the beginning of social networks as part of the period of maturity of humanity: a time when social divisions, anxiety and restlessness were created that are detrimental to the health and well-being of many people. It may be that until that time comes it is best to get rid of our mobile phones or at least turn them off from time to time.
Authors: Rowland Atkinson and Mariann Hardey
This article has originally been published in The Conversation. You can read the original article here.
Translated by Silvestre Urbón.