Avoid Being Trapped by Technology and Social Media During the Covid-19 Lockdown

These are deeply challenging and anxious times for many of us. The Covid-19 virus has created the condition for us to have to face into many issues and worries about our own personal health, our job security, our children’s schooling and our family’s health. We may be especially anxious about those we love who’s health is more vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus, and at the same time social distancing may mean we cannot be with them in times of need.

What we do see all around us is the warmth and love that is innate in all of us and in our society. We see local communities coming closer together in ingenious ways that respect the social distancing requirements. We see the incredible strength and resilience in our society as we pull together to support each other. More and more people are offering help and support to those in need. We see this in the UK with the incredible and heart-felt support, gratitude and appreciation for the many thousands of people working tirelessly keeping the UK Healthcare system, the NHS, alive and able to support those who have fallen ill from Covid-19 alongside those who have other health issues and illnesses. These incredible people dedicate their lives to the service to others whilst also putting themselves at risk from their exposure to the Covid-19 virus.

We are all social beings and need contact with our friends and family to stay healthy. And maintaining our health is a priority in today’s world. Enjoying some form of social contact in these times of Covid-19, social distancing and lockdown is necessary, but we recognise that this is difficult to do so in ways that also keep everyone safe. With many of us no longer working or working remotely, our only form of social contact is with our immediate family. For those of us who live on our own our social contact may be severely restricted. In the brief times we are outside we are respectfully cautious of our proximity and contact with others as we follow social distancing guidance. Social distancing is here for some time, and this lack of social connection is likely to become increasingly challenging for us and our wellbeing.

In response to this, technology and social media appears to be the obvious solution, and in some ways it is, providing us with connections to those we love. It can be a very positive way to connect with our friends and families. We can share our stories, our worries and concerns, alongside our funniest moments. We can laugh together and cry together. We can share our joyous experiences which can uplift others. We are able to video call and message those we love, and stay connected even thought at a distance.

So far so good.

However outside of this, it is essential to see how technology and social media, if used without skill, is likely increasing our feelings of worry and anxiety at a time when we least need this.

Lets start with the newsfeeds that we all have immediate and constant access to via our technology. The flow of news stories have been for some time now almost entirely about the devastating impact of Covid-19, with really no other news outside of this, despite there being much still happening across the world. It seems that the majority of Covid-19 newsfeeds are about illness, death, threat to our safety, criticism of others, economic crisis, resource shortages, contagion risk, and other stories which are likely to create anxiety and fear in us. Yes of course there is use in some of this information, but not as the entirety of the readily available newsfeed.

If you consider what you read with some open-mindedness and look beneath the surface of what is presented, there really is little new news there for us aside from infrequent updated governmental guidance. There is an apparent bias towards stories that present worrying situations, issues, and problems for us to dwell on, and the majority of these are outside of our influence or control. There is little by way of positive newsfeeds on the miraculous efforts many people are making too help others through this Covid-19 situation, on the noticeable improvement in our air quality in many of our cities, or on the fact that we are able to halt our entire modern world in a matter of weeks for that which we value - the health of us all - and still be able to have a broadly civilised society. The stories that are available provide little by way of new, valuable or enriching information. Do we need to know hour by hour the increase in deaths in each major country across the world? In fact you can argue that there is no reason to look at the newsfeed other than perhaps a brief one minute scan of the headlines once a day, to check for anything critical. It is, however, fear-based stories which sell. It is what most easily captures our thoughts and our attention, and hence serves the goal of those who produce such newsfeed. To capture our attention - the most precious thing we have as individuals - and to hold our attention for as long as possible, whatever the cost or consequences to our wellbeing, is what is happening. The more attention that is captured, the more the business which has captured it thrives, and the more anxiety is brought into our lives. The cost is to us, not to the newsflow providers, and it is a significant cost.

We are deeply over-exposed to a negative and fear-based newsfeed about situations beyond our control and which sets our thoughts running on anxiety, . This does not serve our health and wellbeing. It does the opposite from what we need right now - to do our best to be as healthy as we can be, so that we can act in these challenging times with calmness, strength and clarity, rather than worry, weakness and confusion.

This situation is even more exaggerated with social media platforms which again are designed specifically to capture your attention and which then add in novel ways to create addictive habits of needing to constantly access them. They so so in order to make money. These platforms, when used regularly throughout the day, turn us away from our world of genuine connection with our friends and family, towards a world of fake images and false stories. Such images and stories generally create in us a desire to be other than who we are, right here, right now. They feed us with beliefs that we are not OK exactly as we are, and somehow need to change or be different to be OK, or to have something we don’t have. They push us towards looking outside of ourselves to other situations or objects which if we had them we would finally be happy. Their shallow nature runs counter to that which we need most right now, which is deep connection and supportive relationships with others. Social media platforms, and their never-ending feed of images and stories capturing our attention by tapping into our fears, anxieties and lack of self-worth. They do so by tapping into the addictive patterning we all have in us as humans and take advantage of this. And in capturing our attention, this is then bought by other businesses to utilise for selling something to us. We have become the commodity, not the user. Have you ever wondered why the social media platforms are seemingly free? They aren’t. They pay for them with our attention. Our attention is being bought and sold, at the cost of our wellbeing.

The Inspired Action is to see technology and social media for what it is - an incredible tool that we can use when we want to, and only when we want to, to access occasional and balanced news flows.

It is a tool we can take charge of to foster and build connection to our loved ones and friends. A tool we use for our benefit. Not as something where we blindly give our attention away to others who benefit from it, at the cost of our anxiety levels and wellbeing. We learn to use it wisely in these challenging times. We learn to limit our use of technology and social media to being only when we make a conscious choice to do so, for something that enhances our life. When we notice we are unconsciously using technology and social media, we send appreciation to ourselves for noticing this, and we choose instead invest our time into working on the real issues that the Covid-19 situation has created that we have to face into, with the benefit of a calmer mind and more relaxed nature.

All that is needed is a small step. Each day minimise a little more the number of times you pick up your technology or access social media for reasons that don’t serve you. New habits being to build over time. We instead begin to invest our time in activities which provide genuine support to the wellbeing of our bodies, our minds and our souls, and of those we love. Where we can, and this is not possible for everyone with some of the challenges that have arisen, we choose to read inspiration books or we choose to call the friend that we haven’t spoken to in a year. We play scrabble with our loved ones, simply for the fun of it. We rest well, sleep well, eat well, and take time out for ourselves every day. We meditate for ten minutes. We learn something new that has always intrigued us. We choose to take control of where we place our attention, rather than this being something we have inadvertently sold onto someone else for no real value in return.

We learn to reclaim what it is to have an Open Heart and Calm Mind and we live our incredible lives from here.

Jon Macdonald