The rise of social media and smartphones has transformed the way we communicate and connect with each other. But not only to the better. This article explores the issues of smartphone addiction and security risks.
I am an IT specialist by training. Nonetheless I remember fondly the days when we did not have smartphones in our pockets. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the device itself, as a concept. I am not against technology. It is the very thing that puts bread on my table. It empowers people, it helps to create masterpieces of art and design. It helps disabled people to take part in the life in the most productive ways. The problem lies with how we are using and abusing it. I am talking about security risks and social media addiction.
Sad truth of the matter is that our youngsters are losing important verbal communications skills. They are losing the skill to read each others body language and facial mimics. They are losing their empathy. They are losing the ability to daydream. Ability to daydream is important for brain development and learn how to be creative and solve future problems by thinking outside the box. Remember when you read an engaging book. How all the characters become alive before your mind’s eye. That is how one enjoys a good book. It takes weaved imagination. In order to learn to daydream you need boredom. To be fully present with whatever you are doing. Usually I daydream doing manual simple work riding on a bus or train, doing cardio at the gym. Using social media on a smartphone creates micro-interruptions and in the long term it destroys your ability to focus your attention and be proactive. It also makes me uneasy to see how people use their smartphone to post every little detail of their life online. Like a good little spy. Only reason to do so is cleverly engineered social-media dopamine based addiction. To this day I don’t understand why people are living in such an exhibitionist way. Yes I use social media but that’s because I am a photographer among other things. It is my passion and for some time it was my job.
Social-media is a social engineering database that is used to develop AI technology. Sell your personal information to marketing companies. If you do not pay for a service and it is not from the open-source community, then you and your data are the commodity that is being sold to customers. The only ones of us users that benefits from it are people that want to sell their professional skill sets. Such as artists, technology professionals, business men and small start ups. Social-media is the only place were they can source social capital for their businesses.
But why is social media so addictive? It all comes down to dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone that is produced in the human brain, it triggers positive feelings in response to positive experiences. If you win an award or achieve a goal that you have worked for, finished workout at the gym. It is what makes us happy about such achievements. Dopamine is also being emitted as a response to new likes, new comments, more followers. Big social media companies like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter have designed their services to be addictive in order to get your data to sell it to marketing companies. Social media is a big business and they are in it only for the money. It is a well known fact that CEO’s of big technology companies like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg restricted their children use of social media or smartphones.
So how to protect your children and yourself and use the modern technology in a healthy way? That is the big question. Let me tell you how I plan to raise my future children. For preschool and kindergarten children I won’t give them more than 30 minutes of screen time per day. No social-media, none at all. The child needs to earn this screen time as a privilege for every daily tasks like we used to earn our pocket money. Remember these days? For school children. Old-school cell phones – the ones with buttons, that only send and receive calls and SMS. No social-media, none at all. Only one account on the family computer for homework which must be used under strict parental guidance. IT is just for school homework. The only personal digital device that child may have relatively unrestricted access, is E-book reader with good e-ink display. That is only if the child has healthy reading habits. There won’t be any personal digital devices at the dinner table. From dinner time to children’s bedtime there will be no screen time for children. That is family time. The blue light will interrupt healthy sleeping patterns in children’s brains Even traditional TV is out of question. You might think that all of this is too strict. It will hinder child’s future in technology skills. No! I began using computer and IT technology seriously for the first time when I was 18 years old and now as a 30 year old man I am a technology professional, IT specialist. The only technology that is beneficial to young children are as those that were developed specifically for learning such as the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Lego mindstorms and other development kits and robotics kits. Every school IT lab should have this kinda stuff to teach children from age eleven. Programming and electronics. Under the supervision of skilled grown ups. In short: No social-media for children younger than eleven.
But how do I protect myself as a smartphone user? I use a small capacity Iphone 4s 8GB base model. If I were an Android user I would use a small capacity SD card around 8-16GB. Why do I do this? Simple, it would prevent me from hoarding apps that I don’t need. All apps have access to your phone sensors (GPS, camera, microphone, accelerometer) which is no problem unless a nasty developer tries to use it to harvest information about their users. I still remember the scandal when it came out a that the ten most popular flashlight apps for Android were spyware. So choose your apps very carefully and read the information it gives you on installation. A small flash memory on your phone helps you to only have the most important stuff on it. What about social media? I use only Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. Because I am a content creator as a photographer. Regardless of that I don’t need social-media on the go. If you are not a content creator, technology professional, blogger or a startup founder do not use social media on your smartphone. I have all the notifications turned off except voice call, email and SMS. I want to own my own time. In real life I use Cat B30 as a regular phone and my Iphone 4s as GPS and travel guide. I even set my phone screen to gray scale as an experiment. I also do not keep my smart phone turned on in my bedroom. Because it is not part of my morning routine I take time for myself to get ready for a new day.
In my eyes, IT technology is luxury, it is important but one needs to know all the important social life skills. Maybe my article about smartphone addiction is in the wrong magazine. Because the thing that I absolutely love about Macedonian society is how kind you are and how family oriented you are. I hope you will never lose that. Because kindness is the most important part of humanity.
Madis – Siim Kull