I was flabbergasted recently to read, on a local web forum for mums, someone asking if there was an app that would tell her when to feed her baby. Thankfully, common sense prevailed in the responses she received, with people advising her that the baby, itself, would let her know – in no uncertain terms – when it was hungry. But it got me thinking – are we really so dependent these days on the internet and our mobile phones that we are becoming completely detached from common sense, intuition and feelings?
There is, of course, a lot to be said for having easy access to massive amounts of information and people 24/7: keeping in touch with friends and family across the globe, immediate access to educational resources, consumer reviews, advice, ideas, entertainment, local listings etc. etc.
It’s all there at the touch of a button. Everything. But this “easy access” comes at a price, and studies have shown that more and more people are relying on Smartphones to do their thinking for them. In the quest for quick answers, people don’t even TRY to remember information, or work things out for themselves; they just ask Google, or Mumsnet or their Facebook friends.
Should we really be offloading our thinking to technology this way?
Is the internet rotting our brains?
As well as making us lazy, it seems that we actually are damaging our memories: active recall (remembering something ourselves) strengthens memories, whereas we’re more likely to forget facts we’ve just Googled. We’re forgetting how to REMEMBER! And it’s not just our memories at stake: what about the real-life relationships we should be developing whilst we’re asking Google how we can have better relationships? What happened to listening and watching and interacting as a way to learn about others and ourselves?
The really terrifying thing is that we’re encouraging our kids to rely on the internet in this way too: many’s a parent these days that administers to their kids boredom by handing over the iPad.
I watched a young boy with his parents in Tesco recently; his head was bowed, engrossed in an iPad. He was quiet, yes, no bother at all in fact, and his parents were able to get on and do their shopping without any moans, groans or requests for treats. But I found it really quite sad, not least because a trip to the supermarket is, for my granddaughter of around the same age, pretty exciting. She has her own list of groceries and returns to the trolley triumphant and grinning when she’s found each item.
She’s learning about prices, weights and products. She’s discovering independence, having fun and receiving positive feedback. Yes she asks for treats, but she doesn’t always get them, and there are lessons learned there too. Most importantly of all, she’s getting attention and paying attention to her surroundings.
I honestly fear for the child who’s glued to the iPad, and for the mum in the park who finds her Facebook feed more interesting than her children’s play, not to mention the teenager who asks Instagram if she’s pretty, her sense of self-worth rising and falling with the number of likes each selfie gets.
C’mon people, we DO NOT need an app to tell us when to feed our babies, and we do not need the internet to tell us that we are worthwhile. I get that in times of loneliness, anxiety or insecurity, it can feel reassuring to reach out to others and have them respond to us. Through groups and forums we can find comfort, companionship, advice and support, and that’s great. But don’t forget that in seeking answers and approval, you’re also opening yourself up to judgment, criticism or even just being ignored, and that can do much more harm than good.
By all means enjoy the advantages of the internet, but remember that treating your phone like an extension of your own mind is dangerous. If you’re at a loose end, find something else to do other than Facebook; read a book, pick up a newspaper, or just sit and think!
The next time you’re struggling to remember something, give it a while, come back to it, see if you can recall it yourself. How about working out how to drive to somewhere new without Google Maps or your Satnav? Sounds scary huh? But do you ever really WATCH where you’re going anymore, or do you just drive in a daze while Google Maps tells you where to turn?
And if kids are twitching and itching to get on the Xbox or the iPad, saying they’re bored….don’t be afraid to let them be bored! It’s good for their imaginations and self-development to come up with their own things to do, and it’s an important lesson to learn that life does not provide you with a constant stream of fast-paced thrills and adventure. Let their minds BREATHE. Encourage them to THINK for themselves.
Now more than ever before, I think we need to ground ourselves, to feel our connection to the real, physical world and focus our attention on the real people in our lives. Take stock of your surroundings and be thankful for them – look up and smile at the sky above your head instead of envying your friend’s holiday photos on Instagram. Listen to your intuition; explore your feelings and invest in the people close to you, for your relationships with them are what counts.
And if you were one of those who received roses for Valentine’s Day, I hope you at least took the time to smell them before posting a photo of them on Facebook!