Being constantly connected to the digital world has its consequences – setting the rules with social media
In order to have a more harmonious marriage, H and I have decided that we need some rules.
Recently, we came up with Rule No. 1: You can only repeat something once.
It’s been really helpful in keeping the nagging level of our marriage down. In the past, we would nag at each other quite a bit.
It has worked so well, we thought we should introduce more rules.
A few weeks back, he suggested Rule No. 2: No Googling and checking of e-mail at the dining table and just before we sleep.
What a ridiculous rule, I said. It’ll be impossible for me to agree to it and it’s not fair because it’s targeted at me.
How can I not be checking my e-mail all the time, I continued. I am a journalist. I must know what’s happening and I must be contactable 24/7. What if a story breaks? I need to know at once. I was, of course, exaggerating my own importance.
The world and the newsroom chug along just fine whether or not I am online. My bosses don’t expect me to be constantly connected (I think).
I was using work as an excuse. An excuse for an affliction I am finally coming around to acknowledging, but which H has noticed for some time: I have an addiction.
I have an addiction to Googling, to my smartphone, to my iPad, to being connected to the digital world.
My phone follows me everywhere I go. I sleep with it inches away from my pillow and my nights (as well as his) are punctuated with beeps, blips and pings from the many message notifications streaming in.
I check my phone goodness knows how many times a day, to look at my e-mail, WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and a few other apps.
When I’m at the cinema, I’m one of those irritating people whose phone screen lights up during a movie because I’m checking it.
I literally break out in a cold sweat when I misplace my phone.
At home, I walk around not only with my phone, but also my tablet.
I am addicted to Googling on my iPad. I can spend an entire day in bed just Googling (oh, bliss). Sometimes, when the Wi-Fi speed is acting up, I Google on both my phone and tablet at the same time, just in case one gets to the information I want quicker.
“You’re addicted,” H says.
“I’m not,” I say. “It’s my job. I am not addicted. I know when to stop.”
To prove my point, I went onto Google (of course) to try out some are-you-an-Internet-addict tests.
The most helpful article I came across was in Yahoo by Dr James Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor University in Texas in the United States.
He explained that anything that can produce pleasure in our brain has the potential of becoming addictive and what makes something an addiction is when we lose control.
Research, he said, has identified “six signs” of any type of substance or behavioural addiction.
These signs relate to issues connected to salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse. I have a problem. But the situation isn’t that dire, I’d like to think.
Still, I shouldn’t be complacent. It can’t be pleasant living with someone who doesn’t give you her full attention because her nose is always stuck in a screen. It is also rude.
At work, I have got into the bad habit of not looking at colleagues I’m talking to because I’m also typing away on my phone or computer.
At meetings when I’m just the slightest bit bored, I find it hard to resist reaching for my phone and checking my e-mail, which is impolite to the person who’s speaking.
My attachment to my devices can be dangerous – I walk and text a lot. The intense and constant staring at screens is causing eye strain.
Studies have also found that the Internet is harming our memory, especially short-term or working memory.
Information overload and distractions – hallmarks of Internet surfing – make it harder to retain information in our brains.
When we know a digital device holds information for us, we are also less likely to remember it ourselves. It has been years since I memorised anyone’s telephone number. I’m not even sure I can do it now.
Having so much information at my fingertips has made my brain lazy and mushy.Google makes you feel clever when you really aren’t.
Also, while social media like Facebook have been praised for bringing people closer, they can in fact isolate us when we use them in place of face-to-face interactions.
As for H and me, I think I should agree to some version of Rule No. 2 if I want a happier marriage.
By Sumiko Tan The Straits Times/Asia News Network