The rise of modern social media has transformed the way people communicate especially young people. Recent surveys show that a whopping 96% of young people own smartphones vs 82% of adults and since 2004, smartphone use has grown and the demand for more voice and data services is greater than ever.
For young people text messaging remains the most popular way of communicating and many teens view it as a key part of social life. Just the other day I had a conversation with my 16 year old niece who told me that most of her friends who are the same age or fall into the age range of 18-24 reported to sending over 100 texts a day via WhatsApp on average and that’s without the use of Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or even via a normal text messaging service.
So what does the rise of texting as a form of social communication mean in terms of the overall quality of life? Despite the number of growing stories warning of the dangers of texting (including the dangers of texting while driving, “sexting”, and texts while under the influence of drugs or alcohol) text messaging seems as if it is here to stay. Research looking at the impact of texting on social relationships, academic performance, and personal safety suggest, that being able to communicate digitally helps adopt those relationships that are important to a texters life, and the fact that we can be available anytime of the day or night shows texting places even more stress on people to always be available.
Ask yourself when was the last time you had a break from your phone, laptop, I-pad, television, X-box, PlayStation or other digital device? We seem to live in an age where we just cannot live without some sort of electronic device glued to us and that is frightening. Going back to my niece she tells me she feels cut off from the world when she is away from her phone, just a little while ago she had no phone for a short period (four days) and she was so grumpy and moody but as soon as she had her phone returned all was better in the world.
A lot of young people build relationships with other people on line and amass a large number of followers but ask yourself how many of those so called friends do you actually know or speak to on a daily basis? The answer is shockingly low and that is a major problem as we are beginning to move into a virtual world.
Researchers have found that behaviour is linked to measures of physiological arousal such as increased heart rate, respiration and muscle tension, frequent smart phone use has also been linked to sleep problems and symptoms of depression.
It is time to reconnect with each other on a face to face level and remember that we are humans and not robots. IS IT TIME TO UNPLUG…?