I received a watch this week, a Casio, €22.99. It can’t monitor my heart rate and it doesn’t know how many steps I’ve taken in a day. It also does not alert me to an incoming call or message. But it does its job, it tells me the time – one of the main jobs I had outsourced to my phone.
Smartphones are now our fifth member. The extent to which they have infiltrated our lives is endless. They are our bank tellers, our navigation systems, our clocks, calendars, cameras and calculators, our recipe books, our stores and cash desks, our source of information, our entertainment systems, our encyclopedias, our valley at home squinting through the windows as we observe the intimate lives of others on the various social media platforms and our communication cords for everything from sending messages to organizing social life, and from family forums to groups of neighborhood watch.
Smartphones have more than seduced us. They’re like the uninvited guest who’s so helpful and generous they’re wallpaper – just one you haven’t really chosen.
This weekThe magazine published an interview with David Beckham, a millionaire with 75 million followers on Instagram. It was really a public relations piece about driving and cars – it has a new partnership with Maserati. There was a curious line there about the fact that he doesn’t have a driver because when he’s driving he can forget he’s David Beckham.
There was also a line in there about phones, parenting and social media – it was probably a left-of-center response that wasn’t meant for the interview.
When the interviewer assumed he had a team of people managing his nearly 100 million social media accounts, Beckham moved on to fatherhood and phones.
“I don’t spend a lot of time on it (social media). I don’t sit there all day staring at Instagram or scrolling through doom. Because I’m also trying to control my kids and their media usage. It’s a big part of being a father these days,” he said.
In the world of parenting, phones, social media, online bullying, intimate image sharing, screen time and body image influences are pretty high there among the concerns.
But in the world of parenting, the advice has always been that kids will “do what you do, not what you say.”
We can go to great lengths to monitor our kids’ phone usage and screen time all we want, but how is ours doing?
That’s why I have a watch. A swipe of the screen to see which side of noon I’m on and I could find myself in a non-emergency message exchange, a totally pointless social media scroll, or participating in one of the 5.6 billion Google searches performed daily.
How many adults can handle a queue without the self-soothing of a scroll? The kids bang outside a grinder while a family waits for their summer supper and the dad scrolls through a screen to pass the time. How many times does this dynamic repeat itself throughout the day?
Young children toss around a sandpit in the middle of a playground, make friends, fully present to their senses, and a parent sits on the picnic head tilted into another world.
Distinction and discernment are needed here. There are jobs to do, online shops, people to contact, emails to send to bosses. There was a time and a place for it. Now everything is mixed up. And how often do you consciously and consciously choose your fifth member to send that email or answer that call in the playground? Reality is more of a rabbit hole. One call later and we check the sports scores, the stock market,later our crypto gains or losses, or we are doom-scrolling.
Recent research by Bupa revealed a 247% increase in Google searches for “terrible morning anxiety”. Specific search has increased significantly since the start of 2022. Some experts believe that “doom-scrolling” is a contributing factor.
In 2020, Oxford English Dictionary named it word of the year.
But what is it?
Doom-scrolling in simple terms is our craving for more, that moment when you land on an internet page and you don’t know how you got there.
Pamela Rutledge, director of the California-based Center for Media Psychology Research, says doom-scrolling “really describes the compulsive need to try to get answers when we’re scared.”
It’s a phrase that’s become part of the popular vernacular during the pandemic, but it’s something smartphone users have always done, and the addictive, temporarily self-soothing scroll isn’t just performed on the land of bad news.
They have nothing to compare to this new normal. But we do. We know it’s not normal to consume news 24/7, it’s not normal to know what a stranger ate for breakfast, and it’s not normal to know what a stranger ate for breakfast, and it’s not normal to It’s not normal to have a perfectly immaculate peaceful home in the heart of parenting.
Adults are their point of reference.
And the younger, rear generation who put us all to shame with their relentless ability to be present and who have no interest in acquiring a fifth member, what about them?
Impressionable eyes and absorbing minds step into a world where there is an interface between them and the people around them. They look up from their game world to find adults on the screens, perhaps necessarily, accidentally or addictively, and what message do they get? What impact will this have on them? This exact search has not yet been made. But many other types of research have.
Phones and social media help us enormously in our lives, but they also impact our mental health, our levels of empathy, our democracies, our perceptions of ourselves, our body image and our ability to connect with others through real human experiences of eye and touch contact.
Before we tell our kids about their phone usage, they’re just the canary in the coal mines and the customers and content providers of big billion dollar corporations, let’s check our own scroll and screen time .