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Be in the driver’s seat with smartphones and social media

Smartphones and social media have reinvented the way we communicate, source information, shop, make decisions and spend our time.

Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are popular because, by nature, we learn by sharing experiences and looking for better ways to do things. Social media expands the conversation beyond the coffee shop, the arena and church to a truly global community. This is powerful.

Social media has many positive aspects, but we need to be mindful of how we use it and what we take from it. For children growing up in the social world, building an online persona can become an obsession and negative feedback can be devastating, potentially leading to depression or low self-esteem.

The immediacy of our connected lives means we can multi-task like never before. You can buy an e-book, sell grain, check the radar for rain, catch up on the news, text your kids and look at a used tractor for sale – all in the 10 minutes you’re waiting for the dentist. Wow! But can you turn it off? Do you get restless if you’re not interacting with your device?

Our brains get a mini-dose of “feel good” every time the phone vibrates or a new text or tweet arrives. If we allow it, our relationship with our smartphone and all it delivers can evolve to where it dictates daily life minute-by-minute. An extreme example is a reported increase in child drownings attributed to parents who are distracted by their smartphones.

It can be energizing and invigorating to get so much done so easily and efficiently, but it should not be compromising safety, personal relationships and our health and well-being. We know that being “on” all the time is not healthy.

The objective in all of this – and it will become increasingly important as new technologies continue to come at us – is to find a balance where the technology is working for us, not the other way around. Proactively setting boundaries may be unpopular with your family and employees, but being in control of technology use will ensure you’re maximizing the benefits and limiting the negatives.

4 simple ways to take control

  • Program your smartphone to shut down all functions (except calls or texts from select contacts) after 6 p.m.
  • Ask family members to put their devices in a basket, on a high shelf or near the front door during mealtime – anywhere out of easy reach.
  • Be disciplined about setting aside time to be disconnected.
  • Don’t mix holidays and work via your smartphone.

Article by Peter Gredig