Waking up, the first thing on my mind is ‘check your phone.’ Straining one eye open, I swipe through my notifications… an email or two, a few Wattsapps and… what was that? A few new followers on Instagram?! Has my follower count nearly gone up to 1,000?! Jack pot. I refresh my app, and double check. Yep. 995 followers. Why did they follow me? What did I post that made me gain five followers in one night? That 1,000 follower count was looming ahead, if I could just get five more followers, my status as a person with 1,000 followers would become materialised.
Being part of the creative industry is now no longer about the creative process, nor the beauty of what can be created; through our own personal marketing and branding within an ever growing and expanding industry, every one of us creatives are also full time online inhibitors. We must exist within an online space, as well as within the physical creative atmosphere in order to become consequently successful and known– but at what point does reality end and the ‘online environment’ begin?
I have found in the recent years that I am completely and utterly lost without technology, without being online. Have nothing to do on the morning commute? Sit on Instagram. I’m at an event and I don’t know many people? Scroll through Facebook. I’m sitting in front of the TV after a day at work? Check emails, Wattsapps, Youtube, Vogue.com… you guessed it, I am one of those ‘can’t be left alone for ten minutes without my phone.’
I’ve started recording EVERYTHING. I MUST let everyone online know what I’m doing; eating breakfast, going for a run, taking the rubbish out, being at work… no longer am I presenting my creative work online, I am now presenting myself. The moments that I’ve felt look as if I’m doing anything relevantly important, it needs to be known. And the days at work? Lunch time, I aimlessly scroll through any kind of social app I can find, using that as my break from the flashing lights and loud music in the studio.
If I really analysed the amount of time I spend online, I would say I can easily waste around 4 hours per day, fulfilling my online identity. I know it becomes too much when I start getting headaches, and I do feel what I imagine are withdrawal symtoms, when I am unable to be online for more than a day.
Yes. Technology and ‘the online environment’ is no doubt, taking over my own reality. But what has actually happened to humanity since the start of this phenomenon?
In terms of mental health, anxiety, stress and negative thoughts are now on the rise, due to the increased use of social media – A study published in the journal Computers and Human Behaviour found that people who report using seven or more social media platforms were more than three times as likely as people using 0-2 platforms to have high levels of general anxiety symptoms.
When it comes down to keep our mood up, in 2014, researchers in Austria found that participants reported lower moods after using Facebook for 20 minutes compared to those who just browsed the internet. The study suggested that people felt that way because they saw it as a waste of time. Furthermore, our actual sleeping patterns are now becoming disturbed through the actual physical use of technology – researchers from the University of Pittsburgh asked 1,700 18- to 30-year-olds about their social media and sleeping habits. They found a link with sleep disturbances – and concluded blue light had a part to play. How often they logged on, rather than time spent on social media sites, was a higher predictor of disturbed sleep, suggesting “an obsessive ‘checking’.
The reality is, when will technology and our online presence become our actual lives? When will the not-so-distant ‘Black Mirror’ saga begin to take place? No longer are we seeming to appreciate life offline and not feel the need to show it ‘online’, but it seems almost that we are not so far from letting technology and being ‘online’ rule our lives. I speak from a stand point of someone who heavily relies on having an online presence to exist within my industry, yet can appreciate that I myself, must understand the moment where I need to be ‘offline.’
The true question is, at what point does our ‘offline world’ merge with the ‘online environment’?