Assuming that the average life expectancy is 71 years, you spend 41% of your entire life in front of a screen (whether it’s a TV, a smartphone, or both).
Every aspect of your life involves staring at a screen.
Work, education, entertainment, socialization. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a problem. After all, the things we do haven’t changed, it’s the medium through which we get them done that’s transformed.
Think about it, we watch movies online for the same reason we used to go to a theater to see a play. Not much has changed, right?
Not exactly. As it became more convenient for us to stay at home, order a book, a music album, and even groceries online, we have less and less need to go out and get things done in real life.
But what happens when we do go out and get things done?
New connections are made, unexpected opportunities are found. Simply taking a walk brings new ideas.
It is almost impossible to live offline. But why is that so in the first place? Wouldn’t it make more sense to live a real life? Especially since all of us know about the negative effects of social media.
There might be a good answer to that. In an episode of Vsauce called What Is The Scariest Thing? Michael explored the roots of the thing we call fear.
One of the "8 unique innate aversions that engender panic in us is isolation". In other words, there are 8 major types of fears that we are striving to avoid.
Nomophobia is the fear of not having a working cell phone. It stems from the fear of isolation. We are afraid that we are not connected to the rest of the world.
Another example is the fear of public speaking. It stems from the fear of rejection, which itself stems from the fear of isolation. We can see a pattern emerging.
There’s a web of fears your brain is continuously weaving.
But how is this connected to our preference to spend almost half of our lives in front of a screen?
As mentioned above, it is becoming increasingly more convenient for us to get everything done from the comfort of our homes.
Going out and meeting people can and does result in rejection. It is more bearable to be rejected online than in real life considering that most of us present a mere persona to the Internet anyway. The reality is far trickier. When in real life someone rejects who you are, you close down. You isolate yourself.
That is partly why we continue to use social media despite knowing the effects it has on our mental health.
What can we do about it?
We can start small. Take a walk in the park once a week, make it a part of your routine. Call (don’t text) your family once a week. Watch some stand-up shows live once the lockdown is over. So many possibilities to invite more social interaction in your daily life. Say “Hello” and “Goodbye” or “Thank you” to a waiter, cashier, or professor.
We are living online. We work on our laptops, read e-books, and stream movies. We go to great lengths to minimize social interactions.
We know that social media is hurting us, and yet that doesn’t seem to prevent us from using it. Why is that?
One of the 8 major fears we share is the fear of isolation. We are not as emotionally vulnerable online as we are in real life. The personas that we present to the Internet are keeping us safe.
What can we do to decrease social media usage and increase the hours spent interacting with the world around us? We can start small. Take a walk in the park once a week. Go to a movie theater instead of streaming.
Interacting with the physical world makes us feel alive.