The Rapunzel generation
Who’s in control - you or your phone? If you have a smart phone how often do you check it for emails? Or maybe you are anxious to get a text message?
But is our use of electronic media causing us harm? Some people think it is especially when it comes to social media. More and more people seem to use phones and tablets to feel connected. But how really connected are you? Humans actually crave physical contact. Emails and social grouping on the internet have a function but cannot replace face-to-face interactions.
Isn’t it great to receive an email from a friend or a family member thousands of miles away. Only 20 years ago you had to wait for a letter and that usually took a week to get to you. Who knows what could have happened in that week. Now it is instant and you can see what they are experiencing.
But this isn’t really what humans need and there are now concerns that although the quantity of interactions has increased the quality has deteriorated.
Could this be the era of the Rapunzel generation? People who live in high towers and don’t meet many people for whatever reason, but communicate through electric wires. We prefer safe and sterile environments and if we don’t like what others say we can cut them off.
A recent research report from Brigham Young University, Utah suggests that loneliness and social isolation can shorten people’s lives, and things are getting worse not better. Other research shows that being lonely raises stress levels and can lead to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
And it is not just old people who are affected. More and more young people are visiting therapists with high stress levels. On the surface they seem to have everything. However, on digging a bit deeper the cracks begin to appear. Work is demanding and they have less time to socialise. But they feel they are OK because they are in constant contact with lots of ‘friends’. However, at the same time, they are in counselling because they feel disconnected and maybe even worried about been addicted to social networks.
Keeping in contact, when we can’t see friends, by phone or email helps a little but we also are quite good at self-promotion.
We don’t want others to see bad things about us. We might talk about the challenging things in our lives if we are in the same room. But we emphasise the good things on social media. This can have two effects. Some friends become jealous and wish their lives could be better. And we know we are deceiving others and feel ashamed that we are but don't do anything about it.
So what to do? Quite simply find time. Prioritise what is actually important. Take risks and go out and meet people (ideally without drugs or alcohol). Don’t look at your phone first thing in the morning. Turn it off when you go out to lunch (you know that thing we are all meant to do around midday). And turn your computer off an hour before you go to bed.
Take control and become more human. Sometimes less is more.
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About Owen Redahan
Owen works with individuals and couples. He focuses mainly on issues around self esteem, relationships, sexual addiction and work problems using CBT and person focused therapies.
He holds a Diploma in Counselling and is Vice Chair of ATSAC (the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity). He is based in Canary Wharf (E14).