Tag Archive | social media

Hurtful and potentially damaging

I sit in a cafe where no one is talking. Everyone has their head down. Do they all hate each other? Are they depressed?

No – they’re staring at their phones.

Phones distract from real social interaction study shows; click the pic for the article

A child pipes up in a train carriage with a reasonable question for his mum about their journey. At first she ignores him and continues to stare blankly at her phone. So does everyone else in the carriage. He asks again, a little louder. So she yanks her earphones out her ears with a vicious glare and screams at him to leave her alone – she’s already told him – will he shut up – and various other hurtful remarks. Then she returns to watching her screen. He has no such entertainment and has to be content with nothing. And learn nothing about interaction but a lot about how it’s okay to ignore one another if you’ve got a phone in your hand. For that’s what most folks are doing.

We recognise additions to drugs and alcohol but we’re soon going to have to acknowledge addictions to technology which some people use compulsively. Not to mention to excuse inappropriate behaviour.

Like alcohol changes behaviour and severe alcoholism can ruin relationships I fear that compulsive checking of notifications and absorption in social media or gaming could be sending us the same way. We may have more facilities than ever with which to communicate but is this diminishing our skills to do so in warm humane ways, face to face? Diminishing interactions which communicate feelings and meanings more accurately than a digital emoji can. It’s certainly in danger of ruining our parenting and trashing the responsibility we have of teaching kids how to be social.

People would once have chit-chatted to strangers at the next table, on the next seat or in the bus queue. Now we’re all heads down creating isolation and distance. We’re learning how to ignore the person next to us in the room – familiar or stranger – by engaging with others miles away, or by gaming, which can overtake the desire to connect with anyone at all.

It’s easier not to. Our phones give us a chance to disengage and close ourselves in a digital bubble, avoiding the slight social difficulty of face to face, eye to eye.

The trouble is, apart from the fact that it is deskilling the youngsters – well and the oldsters too who are supposed to be setting an example – disengagement leads to desensitisation. Desensitisation makes it easier not to care. When you care less you can commit offenses and crimes against others more easily, you can bully more easily, you can disassociate the responsibility we all have to care for one another and maybe be polite to one another which makes a day go round more pleasantly than screaming.

I don’t know what preceded the incident on the train when mum sounded off loud enough for the whole carriage to hear. I acknowledge we’re all driven to less than acceptable behaviour with our kids on occasion, although she kept it up all journey. But I do know that kid did not deserve to be spoken to like that – no one does. Or be ignored for the rest of the hour’s journey without anything to do. He needed his own phone! Better still, he needed someone to talk to.

We all do. However updated we all are, and connected as we need to be to modern communications, it is nothing more than hurtful to be in the company of someone who clearly seems to prefer to communicate with someone else. It hurts us all; child or adult.

And it’s something we perhaps need to give serious thought to as we parent and prepare our kids for the wider world. Phones are absolutely brilliant. But we have to consider and take charge of them and their place in society, not have them in charge of us. Or replace the time given to the warm loving interactions we all inherently need.

Disconnected!

We’ve been another week without an internet connection. I’ve had to decamp to a friend’s house to use hers. For the other problem with rural living is poor mobile signal – not enough for me to go online on my phone at home.

Such are the disadvantages of living in remote places. But we’re used to it!

It has its upside. It means that without the seduction of social media, emails and messaging I focus more intently on new writing rather than allowing my time to be eaten away by responding to notifications. It’s easy for that to be an excuse for not getting the real work done. I admit I can be a bit dilatory at managing that!

The absence of the internet also reminds me to practice skills that are independent of it, to be more resourceful, to re-visit other activities, perhaps less sedentary, that do not depend on that connection. And it’s a good reminder that we need variety in our daily lives to bring a healthy balance and outlook, to help us maintain other skills and interests, practical and physical as well as social, to make us more rounded people.

Exactly the same for our children. They need this variety too; involvement in an assortment of skills as well as internet ones, most particularly the physical, practical and personal, to make them healthy, rounded, skills-rich adults.

I’ve enjoyed watching some of the ‘Back in time…’ programmes that have taken families back to life in earlier times, mostly before internet and telly. And some of the comments the youngsters on the programme have made suggest that they have enjoyed living without their phones, internet and telly at times because it has made them focus on each other. Conversation has become a pastime for example, or communicating over board games. Another remarked they’ve become closer as a family.

Now, I acknowledge that I was as grateful as anyone to distract a restless child with some screen based pursuits.

But I’m now aware that this has become such an overused activity that children are lacking in many of the skills they would have naturally gained from connected family time. Some cannot converse adequately, use language effectively, interact with peers appropriately and are starved of the nurture family closeness brings because of long isolate hours entertained by screens, disconnected from real people. Even communal meal times have been overturned by TV dinners.

I enjoy a TV dinner, but not all the time.

What I need, and what children need even more as their on going development is more important, is a rich diversity of experiences. They need opportunities to try a range of different activities, explore potential interests, chances to develop a variety of skills, physical, practical and personal for their well being, resourcefulness and healthy maturity.

A balance of life’s activities in other words. Not a life that’s dependent on one.

Nothing like a week with disconnection to make me check whether my time usage was balanced.

If this extreme weather continues I suspect I might be in for another one!

Breaking down paper barriers

colouring book and hair dye 009 It’s weird – I have a love hate relationships with colouring books!

I was reminded of this abnormal fetish of mine by an art and culture magazine the girls had (Frankie) because it had some colouring in for grown-ups drawn by artists.

You wouldn’t think anything so innocuous would stir me up, but then I was always a bit averse to doing what I was expected to do – like colour in between the lines. I can’t even write on lined paper now because the inhibition of it irritates me so!

I used to love colouring books as a kid. There’s just something so desirable about them isn’t there? But my rather artisan parents frowned on them by saying I ought to be making my own pictures rather than colouring in other people’s so my enthusiasm waned a bit. Can’t parental principles be irksome? I tried hard to be careful with mine.

And my kids did have colouring books – they liked them too. And they have a value in helping children to practise specific skills (e.g. hand-eye co-ordination and manipulation of tools needed for writing) and inspire ideas of their own. Like with all things in life there is a value to using structure when needed…as long as you have a go at the alternatives too.

For my folks did have a point in suggesting that we break out of those structured boundaries at other times. And it helps for our children to know that especially when their lives are so controlled all the time.

The colouring books are just my example of how conditioned we are to always stay within pre-set boundaries, forgetting that we can actually do differently when it serves us better. We do not always have to stay within the limits, structures, rules and routines that other people adhere to.

Other people do so because it serves them well. Or they’ve never thought about it or discovered there are options! But sometimes we go on and on in life sticking to ideas or rules or institutions simply out of habit or compliance not realising they don’t always serve us well as individuals,

Readers of this blog will know that our family decided to give up on the institution of school because it wasn’t serving our kids well and home educated. That’s one example of an alternative. But there are less dramatic alternatives we can choose every day if we just remember this simple idea; we don’t have to always stay between the lines – whether that’s in colouring books, or what’s trending on Facebook, or in life!

With the influence of social media we’ll need to be particularly vigilant in making personal decisions about how we want to lead our lives and the ideas we really believe in.

I have a super quote to remind me of this: When a man has once broken through the paper walls of everyday circumstance, those unsubstantial walls that hold so many of us securely prisoned from the cradle to the grave, he has made a discovery. If the world does not please you, you can change it. (From ‘The History of Mr. Polly’ by H.G Wells)

Whatever you’re doing today, don’t let any ‘paper walls’ hold you back.

A woman with connections…

A real live world to enjoy!

A real live world to enjoy!

I’m a woman with connections now. It’s been nearly two weeks with no phone or Internet. I was becoming used to the ‘old ways’ of being isolated in the Wilds and not having to respond to anyone. Add the snow into the equation and only an intermittent mobile signal and life began to feel quite pleasantly retro!

Don’t get me wrong – I do like having all your lovely messages to respond to – it’s totally heart-warming. Social media is like a comfort blanket when you’re feeling a bit down and like no one gives a damn – props you up when you’ve just had sharp words from a loved one or the kids.

But there have been advantages being disconnected. It’s made me realise something often forgotten; you need to be aware of what’s happening in your life. If you’re not aware of it you can’t manage it. If you’re not managing it then it’s managing you. And if that’s the case then it’s easy to feel a victim of life rather than in charge of it. (A bit like schooling really!)

I’ve read on more than one blog how people sometimes feel controlled by Social Media not the other way round. It has certainly controlled quite a good deal of my time without me being aware of it. Without it I’ve achieved a lot more. I’ve been much more creative. We’ve had more conversation. I’ve felt more fulfilled somehow, using the offline time productively engaged in other things. Enough to make sure that I manage it better now we’re back on.

It’s also made me realise that parents have to mange it effectively for their kids’ sake. There has to be a proper BALANCE between using the Net and other activities. From what I hear in some households it’s out of balance. Both parents and children are so engaged with people on-line they forget to engage with the loved ones that are actually in the room. They’re so virtual they forget a physical world exists and to go out in it.

There’s more than one way to feel disconnected. An irreplaceable resource it may be, but the Net can have a negative effect on important relationships if it’s out of balance with the other ways you connect; real ways. Conversational ways. Eye-contact ways. Touching and holding.

Will we lose the skills to connect in those ways, do you think, as we addictively suck at our online comforter where people are removed enough for us to avoid the emotional difficulties of more immediate contact?

Balancing online time and real interaction time is important. Balancing online activities with others. How you manage it will teach your children how to manage it, teach them what’s appropriate. Teach them that there are other important things in life to be engaged in than being popular on Facebook and how often you Blog or Tweet.

A real live conversation for one. And playing in the snow!