National Comment Comment

Technology is fuelling our generational distraction

The endless distraction of technology is causing new issues for society

Photo Credit: GHCASSELL

In the age of social media and enormous technological changes, are we becoming too distracted? Studies by several re-searchers reveal that we are. Our sleep is important to us and getting the right amount is imperative. If we are to be at our most productive, we must learn to switch off.

The screens on our mobile devices are designed to keep us alert for as long as possible. They use something called blue-light, which is the same as sunlight, and this is disturbing our sleep patterns. Our bodies are not able to adapt fast enough to deal with these technological advancements. Entertainment companies like Netflix actually view sleep as the enemy. Living in an "on the go" culture means that we must be mindful of the fact that large companies are exploiting the physical features of the human body, constantly keeping us alert.

This "on the go" attitude is be-coming trendy. Combine this with our devices and we are creating dangerous consequences.A report by the sleep council found that 40 per cent of the British public are receiving less sleep than the six to nine hours a night recommended by the NHS. This not only affects our productivity, work and study, but also our relationships with others. We are becoming more distant from one another.

Human to human contact is becoming a thing of the past and instead we are using social media platforms to make these connections. Social media is growing and while it’s important as an industry for providing jobs and information, it’s also playing with our minds. The Washington Post reports that with the popularity of mobile phones, there has been an increase in suicides amongst teenagers.Dr Corey Basch of Paterson University, New York, found that pedestrians seem unable to stop before crossing a road. Road traffic collisions involving pedestrians on crossings were recorded by Basch and found to be a direct result of pedestrians being distracted by mobile devices.

Similarly, I have found this when walking around the University campus myself. Students have nearly bumped into me because they are looking down while texting and not watching where they are going. Equally, car drivers are also unaware of how distracted they are, and this was researched by James Bernstein of Haverford High School. More people text when stopped at traffic lights than when in motion, although 5 per cent of drivers also do this which is incredibly dangerous!

Recently The Economist published a story that remarked the decline in smart phone sales are “cause for celebration”. Apple sales are falling, along with other major manufacturers like Samsung. Mobile phones are the most purchased devices and are often viewed in a bad light, but this story suggests they do more in the way of good than bad. These devices are changing humanity but we must remember that they are tools designed to do a job and must not be allowed to take over our lives.   

So, what can be done to help combat this? Change first and fore-most must come from a governmental level. There needs to be more in the way of regulation because of the mental health implications of the continued use of technology. Age restrictions could be used to limit what people see as there has been an increase in loneliness and social isolation, reports The University of Pittsburgh.

The health and safety of technology combined with social media needs to be investigated because of the potential harm to young people’s brains.We as consumers must take responsibility for our own well-being as it is not these companies’ fault. They are simply providing a service.

Being a young person is hard and so while we are becoming less and less of a society, we need to re-pair this by learning to switch our devices off. There are apps out there, like Forest, which let you plant a  tree if you don’t check your phone for a set time. It also has an option to share with your friends. Why not try leaving your device at home for a day and see if you can last and how long for? The continuing future of the environment, and even humanity, may depend on it

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