THE BLOG

Technology Isn't Making You Sad, It's How You're Using It That's To Blame

04/08/2016 14:56 | Updated 05 August 2016
Gary Waters via Getty Images

Taken at face value, Ofcom's recent report on the nation's addiction to the internet might seem like the stuff of a dystopian nightmare: we spend a full day a week online, over half of us feel "hooked" to the internet.

It's all very scary and if we're being honest, it's all total nonsense.

The internet is pure democracy, it's a tool which can be used by anyone, for absolutely anything and for any length of time.

It's the reason why you know that Hiddleswift are 'real' and it's also the tool that taught you how to make a "Cheat Day Macaroni Cheese" in just five minutes. It's also the reason you sleep terribly, work longer than ever before and haven't said a word to your friends at the pub since the iPhone 4 came out.

It's everything you could ever want. Of course you're going to become addicted, who wouldn't?

The report claims that 15million people have been or are going on a "digital detox" to try and fight back. Well I have some bad news, 15million of you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Digital detoxes aren't the problem, the problem is that we've been given this incredibly shiny toy and we still haven't worked out how to use it properly.

For example, hot tubs are great aren't they? They're warm, bubbly and when combined with a disproportionate amount of fizzy alcohol can become social hubs for relaxation and 'intellectual' chats about absolutely nothing. If I could, I'd probably spend all day in a hot tub.

I'm not writing this blog from a hot tub though, because that would be ludicrous wouldn't it? How on Earth would I be realistically able to do my job while sat in a hot tub?

If you can see where this is heading then you'll probably have worked out that I'm also not writing this blog one-handed while using my other hand to scroll through the infinite waterfall of nonsense that is Facebook.

Moderation. It's a word that as humans we're incredibly good at using when directed at other people but spectacularly awful at embracing in relation to ourselves.

The key to this is not removing technology entirely, just identifying and then removing the things that either a) make you miserable or are b) giant black holes for your productivity.

Why do you have Facebook installed? Seriously, what purpose does it actually serve other than being something for your eyes to absorb before you go to bed, while you're watching TV or sat on the loo.

What does Instagram actually offer you? Actually sit down and think about what it's doing, how it's enriching your life.

What I found was that Facebook does nothing for me. Like so many others it has become a subconscious action which fills time while making me inexplicably miserable about my place on this earth. So I deleted it.

Instagram had become a mindless collection of breakfast photos, holiday snaps of giant cocktails and selfies. I didn't install Instagram to look at any of those things, I installed it to look at beautiful pictures taken by normal people. So I fixed it: I unfollowed every account that did nothing for my life and actively looked for accounts that would show me the world.

I now use VSCO cam (yes, another app) to edit my pictures and by seeing such an incredible world of talented photographers I'm finding myself wanting to go for walks, replicating those moments, bettering them.

These are just two examples where I'm taking the internet and I'm forcing it to become what it was always intended to be - one of the greatest innovations of our time.

I changed my lifestyle as well. By deleting Facebook I no longer have the urge to scroll in bed, instead I read (yes, on my smartphone/Kindle). Apps are now only allowed on my homescreen if they can actually prove that they're adding something to my life.

This ruthless attitude will also mean you start focusing on things in the real world, by removing the apps which ask absolutely nothing of you you'll start changing your browsing patterns as well.

I have a work phone, the moment I get into bed it's on Do Not Disturb and at the other end of the bedroom. It means that if there was ever an emergency my phone would go off but for everything else the distraction is now removed. Of course there are jobs where you're required to be 'on call' but there are also choices you can still make, moments when you're about to leave the house and you can decide to leave it behind.

I'm not trying to paint myself as some wellness guru, indeed ask anyone and they'll attest that I'm generally one of the grumpiest people on the planet.

Instead I'm just fantastically pragmatic. I knew some aspects of being online were making me miserable and so I dealt with them, it's as simple as that.

Going on holiday without a phone might sound trendy but you'll just end up missing on some of the incredible sights and locations that, thanks to the internet, we now have access to. Walking through the countryside without a smartphone might seem healthy but then what about that sunrise that you wish you could have shared with your family?

And that's my whole point here. A digital detox will do nothing to make you happier, it's essentially cutting your nose to spite your face, and then the moment it's over you'll just go back to the way you are.

Instead you need to change the way you use the internet. Hold it to account. Demand better of it.

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