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LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. Our mission is to help organisations realise the full benefits of contemporary learning technologies using the most cost effective and appropriate methods for their business needs.

About Rob Hubbard

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Rob is a designer through and through who is fascinated by how we learn, what we remember and why we pay attention to certain things. He is a huge enthusiast of all that technology can offer to enhance learning and has completed a huge variety of projects in his 14 year career.

He is the editor and co-author of The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual published by Wiley and featuring contributions from the brightest and best elearning minds on both sides of the Atlantic..

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It’s time to strike a digital balance

By Rob Hubbard
Posted 7 September 2017

Recently I sat, one warm evening on the veranda of our holiday villa on a Greek island. Nestling in a green valley of olive and cypress trees that meandered down to a small fishing village, it was early evening and the sky was beginning to darken, the moon already visible above the hilltop. It was beautiful and peaceful – no cars, no planes, no voices, even our children were quiet – there was nothing except the cicadas beginning their night serenade.

Then I received a notification on my mobile phone; a message from an old friend about an upcoming get-together. I replied. Then I had a look at Facebook. Then I checked the news. Then I checked the weather for tomorrow. By the time I looked up again the evening had passed and it was dark. I felt disappointed, cheated – I’d missed it and I wouldn’t get that evening back again.

I’ve been observing the use of social media; mine, my family’s and other peoples. I can see that whilst there are benefits to social media and smartphone use, there are downsides too.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at the links between Facebook use and wellbeing. “We found that the more you use Facebook over time, the more likely you are to experience negative physical health, negative mental health and negative life satisfaction,” says study author Holly Shakya, assistant professor and social media researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

So if it’s bad for us, why do we do it? We are social animals and we seek social recognition. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective - the higher our social standing in our tribe the better our chances of remaining safe and reproducing.
Social recognition is often linked to our sense of personal worth. Celebrity is a highly potent form of social recognition and this is why people are attracted to it. Two decades ago people wanted to be famous for something. Now they just want to be famous.

Social media allows anyone to feel like a celebrity. We get a dopamine hit from the friends / likes / follows / shares / messages we get. It’s like a drug and many of us are hooked – me included.

In particular I’m concerned for young people who aren’t getting out there and experiencing life – instead they are more likely to stay in their rooms and connect to friends online. This makes them safer, yes, but they are also missing out on making those important mistakes when young, learning life skills when there is a safety net to catch them. We learn vital social skills when young, it’s ironic that social media is eroding them.

As MD of a digital learning company I should probably be telling you to dive on in – there’s no such thing as too much time online. But that would be short-sighted. I believe that unless we can achieve a level of digital balance our society will suffer in the long-term. The young people of today will be ill equipped for the world of tomorrow. We’re doing them a disservice giving them unrestrained access to an addictive pass-time. We wouldn’t do it with alcohol or gambling, we shouldn’t do it with social media.

So I’m going to be managing my addiction and that of my children. You should too. But first – please share this article.

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