The first thing I do every morning is look for my cell phone. Through sleep-encrusted eyes, I scroll through emails and news feeds and wonder what the rest of the world was up to while I was asleep.
I am crammed into an artificially-lit and noisy, open-plan office. I spend my working days ploughing through an avalanche of daily emails that pop up at three-minute intervals on my multiple screens and various devices.
In a desperate bid to catch up, I spend all blissful breaks in my busy day, like waiting in line at the market, glued to my smartphone, checking my feeds, reading emails and replying to messages.
I cannot enjoy a meal without first art-directing and Instagraming it. Evenings with friends are spent taking selfies, debating filters and arguing over hashtags.
Every thought has to be squeezed into 140 characters. And, after an exhausting day staring at my computer screen, I collapse into bed and reach for my phone once more.
I know this lifestyle is unhealthy for me. I know my brain was not designed to withstand these constant interruptions and this overload of information.
My concentration has become so scattered in the last few years that after five minutes spent on a given task, I find myself reaching for my phone. “Entertain me!” I’m thinking. “Distract me!”
I am not made for this world.
I’m not the only one. Apparently, we look at our cell phones a staggering 110 times a day.
That’s every six or seven minutes. It seems my existence has become so boring, I constantly require some sort of entertainment.
Without access to this passive entertainment, I find myself getting jittery and anxious. This constant need to be “on” has turned into a sort of addiction, and it is becoming increasingly self-destructive.
Every day, I voluntarily force-feed my subconscious with images of prettier, thinner and richer women who all seem to have bigger homes, better holidays and cooler friends than me.
Wherever I look, I am bombarded with perfectly polished and perfectly photoshopped lives on social media that always look so much f*cking better than mine.
And, it makes me jealous. It makes me bitter. Not only am I chronically exhausted from the sheer volume of information I am consuming, I am also eternally dissatisfied with what I’m seeing.
Because without a filter, my life just looks grey and boring. I find myself thinking, “I wish my life was better”
These feelings of envy some of us experience when faced with digitally-enhanced lives on social media can, at times, lead to full-blown depression.
The type of content we’re exposed to and the speed at which it is consumed is increasingly damaging to our mental health.
We’re never allowed to switch off.
I'm always online. I’m always available. There are no boundaries and no more lights out. The little light on my screen is always on.
I always have to be alert. I always have to be ready. Whether it’s with an opinion, a witty tweet or a funny comment, I have to react instantly. And, it's exhausting.
While our brains used to recuperate during the few seconds we stared into space while making coffee, we are now filling these little gaps in our days glued to our smartphones in a effort to distract ourselves from the mundanity of our existence.
Social media has given us intimate access into the lives of strangers. On my Instagram, for example, mixed in with photos of real life friends are images of supermodels and actresses doing "normal" things.
But, there is nothing "normal" about them. These lives aren’t real, and they’re often digitally altered and aesthetically enhanced to appear perfect.
With more and more apps promising to create the perfect versions of ourselves, the images we are exposed to are often less and less "real." This is damaging us. It is altering our perception of reality and standards of beauty.
The "comparison" game on social media is a real thing, and only very few people are immune to it.
Studies have shown most of us experience feelings of envy, despair and jealousy after exposure to social media.
I see these photos of beautiful people on yachts having the time of their lives, and I look around my grey cubicle and feel like sh*t. I feel like a failure. I feel like I’m never going to be enough.
I feel like I am not made for this world.
But then again, none of us are. Our brains are not programmed to work at this capacity. We weren’t designed to process this insane amount of information at these crazy speeds. Yet, we are. And it’s breaking us.
It’s turning us into chronically exhausted, scatterbrained people who are incapable of stringing together a coherent thought or holding a decent conversation without the presence of a cell phone.
This modern lifestyle is making us more and more susceptible to burning out and developing depression.
The widespread use of cell phones has led to a breakdown in personal boundaries. Back when our phones were still plugged into the wall, no one expected us to be available 24/7. But now, we’re jumping into action as soon as we hear our phones whistle.
“A MESSAGE! A WHATSAPP! AN EMAIL! A COMMENT! A LIKE!”
And we have to look, even if we’re at dinner or just about to drift off to sleep. We can’t ignore it; we have to respond. This expectation is so ingrained in us, it's difficult not to give in.
We’re constantly expected to be available, so our natural boundaries have become completely blurred. We need to reintroduce these lost boundaries.
How? What is the alternative? It sometimes feels like there is no way out. This is the way of the world now, and we just have to suck it up. But, that’s not true. We do have a choice. We can choose to protect ourselves.
We need to cut the umbilical cord and leave our beloved cell phones at home. It will be hard, but your brain will thank you. And your friends will, too. Your cell phone is not an extension of yourself.
If the bond between you and your phone is too strong, try turning off your notifications and only check your phone at specific times of the day.
During working hours, set your phone on "calls only."
Don’t spend your lunch time browsing Instagram or Facebook. Rather, give your brain a break by reading a good book.
Monitor your moods after exposure to social media. If you’re experiencing bouts of jealousy and bitterness after viewing certain content, remove the offending parties from your feeds.
Be ruthless and unfollow anyone who triggers a strong emotional reaction. Life is too short.
Remember to look after your brain. You only have the one.