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These days more and more experts suggest that to enjoy your vacation and to fully experience the beauty and richness of the world, you need to log out and unplug from the Internet. Is it really possible and is it the right thing to do in the digital era? Jakub Kuś, psychologist from SWPS University in Wrocław, who researches the psychological impact of new technologies on people, answers these questions.

Internet Generation

For an increasing number of online users, constant Internet access is as obvious as the fact that the Sun rises in the East. Currently, the generation that does not know the world without the Internet is coming of age. For young people in their late teens and early 20s, online communication and online presence is as natural as breathing. It seems that any appeals encouraging them to log off the Internet and to unplug from digital devices are futile.

Digital Dementia

Psychological research related to online behaviors highlights numerous risks related to the unlimited use of the Internet. An acclaimed German neuroscientist, Manfred Spitzer, has coined a term “Digital Dementia” to describe the breakdown of cognitive abilities resulting from an overuse of digital technology.

Increasingly, people experience stress caused by the constant bombardment of information delivered by numerous sources. It results in emotional and cognitive problems. For example, an overreliance on digital technology that remembers things for you, weakens your ability to remember data, such as phone numbers, birthdays, or any other important information.

Research shows that the more you focus on capturing a moment on a photograph, the less you remember it later. Your memories fade away quicker and after several months you are not able to remember the event.

Committed to Your or to Digital Memory?

The challenge is to derive the maximum benefit from digital possibilities available today, but not fall victim to the digital revolution.

First of all you must be weary of the “virtual archive trap”. You do not have to photograph every place, every meal and every minute of your life to share it online. Allow yourself to actually experience the moment and forget about the perfect pose or the best frame for the photo. Research shows that the more you focus on capturing a moment on a photograph, the less you remember it later. Your memories fade away much faster and after several months you are not able to remember the event.

Nowadays, social media are a repository of hundreds of thousands of photos, which provide a constant feed of images from places and events that the Internet users share. There is nothing wrong with sharing a few photos with friends from time to time, but it is good to practice moderation in this matter. It is worth remembering that the world seen through your eyes is richer, because you can touch it, as opposed to the world seen only through a photo lens or the screen of a tablet.

Social Media and Self-Esteem

A Polish writer and journalist, Andrzej Stasiuk, wrote in one of his essays that “our civilization is increasingly based on transmitting virtual proof of one’s existence to the world.” Every photo and every social media post aims to create a carefully designed image and to remind others that the author of the post exists. However, it may lead to a dangerous tendency to base one’s self-esteem on the online feedback, or lack of it. It is especially dangerous for young people, who during their teenage years are in the phase of identity development. Linking your self-worth with the numbers of likes on Facebook is a slippery slope that may lead to serious psychological consequences for many years. The big challenge of our times is to teach children and young people that their worth is not measured in “likes”. Summer holidays provide a great opportunity to start this conversation.

 

258 Jakub Kus

About the Author

Jakub Kuś – psychologist, researches the impact of new technologies on human emotions, ethics and cognition. He is also interested in the topic of online image creation.

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