When did internet take over our lives?

I had a conversation with a friend of mine who had deleted her Snapchat and Instagram just a few days ago. She had felt that the time she had used in those applications didn’t take her anywhere — instead, they were burning her self-esteem down and stealing all her free time. She has recently ended her competitive sports career and she felt like she doesn’t have anything else to put up in Instagram than selfies and pictures of herself. And that’s what made her anxious: having nothing else to show than her own face. Hearing all this made me first worried about how she’s doing at the moment. Second I thought about the pressure social media is putting over us — and making us believe in the illusion that we need to always be available. Third I realized how mentally strong she had been and also was proud of her.

This is the situation for many of us. Maybe not in this remarkable scale but most of us use social media and internet and is actually addicted in using it. Eventually, I was happy to hear that my friend had been able to know her limits and make actions before losing her mind. How about you, could you imagine managing your life without social media? Probably many of us thinks they could handle without Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Instagram, but what about WhatsApp, news sites, e-mail and Google?

Addiction to using internet and internet-based applications is not just a scary tale any more. Many of us is addicted and the alarming part is that we aren’t aware of it. Most applications are designed so that they give us good feeling by producing dopamine in our brains. On the backside not getting immediate response in social media makes us feel anxious and even depressed. Eventually, excessive usage of internet and internet-based applications can lead to headache, insomnia, poor nutrition, neck pain, dry eyes and vision problems and the list goes on. How about the impact this all is having to employees’ well-being from the perspective of an employer? Isn’t this something you would like to change before it is too late?

Let’s get back to the example of that friend of mine. Think about her situation from the employer point of view: the young adults that should be the future cornerstones of today’s companies are having huge issues with addiction to internet and internet-based applications. Most of them, including me, are not able to draw a line to where the addiction is too much and an intervention would be needed. And it doesn’t get any easier when we enter the working life after (or already during) our studies. After working the whole day and staring at the computer’s screen we stare at our mobile phone’s screen and scroll through all our social media feeds on our way back to home and continue that when we get home. For many of us, putting our phones away is the last thing we do before going to sleep and picking it up is the first thing we do when we wake up.

I counted the times I picked up my phone to check a message or to see if there’s new updates in the social media feeds I’m following during writing this post. Ironically, I did it 9 times and this even isn’t a very long blog post. Addicted? Yes. Uncontrollably addicted? Most probably. And even though I was a bit worried about my social media and internet usage even before writing this, I have now realized the situation is much worse than I could have ever thought. And I’m not even the worst case. It should be the agenda of all of us to put a full stop on this madness. We really need to fix this before we have a generation (or a few generations) of people who are addicted to using internet, unable to focus on one thing for more than 10 minutes and whose key talent is to spend hours and hours procrastinating. Our daily choices eventually define who we are and even though there is a lot of things to learn from us young innovative people, our uncontrollable internet usage is not one of them :)

*** This blog post was an assignment in the Aalto University’s course Social Media CS-E5610 ***