My family heavily relies on technology to feel close and communicate as we are a FIFO family – Separated by Work. I often joke with others that I might get T-Shirts made with the slogan—“Even though we’re miles apart, a computer screen connects our hearts.”
So, I have an intimate understanding of the negatives and positives involved in ‘screen time’.
For many, life demands we use phones, mobile devices, and computers more than we would have a few years ago. We all have instantaneous methods at our fingertips to communicate, which I am personally grateful for, yet there is more to consider when navigating online communication and social media.
Technology itself is not a bad thing, however for people who spend too much time interacting with a screen, the neural pathways in your brain change, and different ones created.
Kaiser Family Foundation reported 8- to 18-year-olds on average spend 11½ hours a day using their technology, and a sample group of adolescents struggled with the ability to recognise another person’s emotions. Dr Gary Small posed the questions, “Have our brains become so desensitised by a 24/7, all-you-can-eat diet of lurid flickering images that we’ve lost all perspective on appropriateness and compassion when another human being apparently suffers a medical emergency? Have we become a society of detached voyeurs?”
Communicating via a screen can decrease empathy and negatively impact concentration and self-esteem, leading people to say things electronically they’d never speak directly to someone.
At times when speaking to others electronically, I have realised by their response the message wasn’t received as intended. When I take the time to discuss it further, they grasp that they had misread what I was saying due to us not being face to face. Has this happened to you too?
From my experience, here are my top eight tips for staying and feeling connected:
- Don’t type anything via a screen that you wouldn’t say in person.
- Use your words well, whether you are texting or messaging. Re-read it and attempt to avoid any misinterpretation before sending.
- Listen for tone of text/type/voice cues as to how the person is feeling and always check for understanding.
- Don’t delay responding to messages you would rather avoid. If you think you don’t completely understand, ask for more information rather than disregard, or ignore it.
- Remember emojis are not a real expression of feelings, nothing is better than hearing a laugh and seeing a smile on someone’s face – a gentle smile or a heartfelt hug has far more power than the cleverest emoticon.
- Aim for a balance of online and in-person contact.
- Think about what you are posting and how it affects others – double check that what you are writing represents you and your family in the best light.
- Be aware of the other person’s situation or needs if you are tagging or mentioning someone, or a company, or a site on social media groups. If in doubt, get their permission first, or wait 24 hours and see if you still want to type and send that message.
Mobile devices and computers are not just connecting tools for family and friends. The screen world expands to include a global network of people who have access to each letter you type and the technological footprint you are creating.