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The connected disconnect: is social media stealing our time?

The connected disconnect: is social media stealing our time?

The connected disconnect: is social media stealing our time?

Time is precious, it’s a non-renewable resource, and there’s nothing we can do to make it last longer or slow down. Trends in how people spend their time has changed exponentially in recent times. The question is, are we being wise with our time?

According to Roy Morgan, the average Australian aged over 14 now spends almost six hours (340 minutes) on social media every week. Commuting times are also up with the University of Canberra reporting that Australians spent 4.4 hours a week, or 53 minutes a day for a five-day working week, travelling to and from work. An increase from 3.9 hours in 2002.

Recent research from the University of Warwick is the first study of its kind to show the impact of digital mobile devices on different aspects of family time. The study found that children are spending more time at home with their parents but not in shared activities such as watching television and meals. The increase is in what is called “alone-together” time, when children are at home with their parents but say they are alone.  

Dr Stella Chatzitheochari of the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick said of the research “Our study is the first to measure the rapid spread of mobile devices across family life, revealing that children and parents will spend time on devices such as smartphones and tablets even while watching TV or eating together. The research shows that device use is now embedded into family life. While we did not find any significant changes in the time family members spend interacting and doing things together, it is certainly possible that mobile devices distract people’s attention during family activities, leading to feelings that the quality of family relationships is under threat”.

A 2018 survey revealed that many New Zealanders are unhappy with their partners’ smartphone usage. According to findings from a nationwide survey undertaken by New Zealand telecommunications provider 2degrees, almost 40 per cent of New Zealanders surveyed are concerned their partners are spending too much time on their smartphones.

So how do we maintain real connections with our loved ones in our always-on, always-connected culture? Taking time to switch off and focus on the present moment with our loved ones is important explains relationship expert Dr Anna Martin. “While technology has an incredible array of benefits, real-life interactions remain key to maintaining a healthy relationship.”

For those who think their smartphones are negatively impacting on their relationships, Martin advocates setting dedicated device-free time or spaces. Implementing a ‘no smartphones in bed’ rule is one of Martin’s favourite rules. “You’re really going to think twice about sending that text or answering that call if you know you have to get up and leave the room to do it,” says Martin.

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