Nfld. & Labrador·Opinion

Good reasons to pull the plug on technology overload

New research shows that people's mental health improves when they take themselves off social media. Brian Callahan wonders what took them so long.
Enough! Brian Callahan says there's value to be had from shutting down some screens. (CBC)

I'm not a big fan of studies. I realize they are generally good things. I mean, we should study things to better understand them.

But these days they're almost as ubiquitous as the variables that sway their conclusions.

The best studies tend to be independent, impartial and not-for-profit; those commissioned by people or companies that stand to benefit from the results, not so much.

Which is why I'm pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg had no hand in the recent, unflattering one regarding Facebook.

It's one of those "duh" studies that concludes the blatantly obvious.

In case you missed it, experts found that people's mental health improved and negative feelings of envy and jealousy declined after a week away from Facebook.


Feeling 'considerably' better offline

The findings were published in the U.S. journal Cyberphysiology, Behaviour and Social Networking, and involved almost 2,000 people in their early 30s, split into two groups: one remained face and eyes into FB, while the other didn't log on for a week. (That's if they could find the button to log off; they don't make it easy because they don't want you to.)

Can you guess which group felt "considerably" better about themselves and life in general after all was said and done?

A new study surveyed almost 2,000 young adults and found those who temporarily quit Facebook felt better. (Canadian Press)

It wasn't the first and surely won't be the last study to find a direct correlation between feelings of negativity and exposure to the vitriol that has come to define not just Facebook, but so-called social media in general.

More like anti-social, if you ask me.

No, not everyone falls victim to it. Many manage to duck in and out of their platform of choice quickly and relatively unscathed.

Poking the bear

Others simply can't get enough of it, and are want to fire off spontaneous comments 24/7 with little or no consideration as to how they will be received.

Fortunately, these are usually the cellar dwellers whose opinions ultimately don't matter, as opposed to, say, a U.S. president calling some wingnut dictator's bluff on nuclear weapons. I don't know about you, but I'd poke a bear before a lunatic. At least with the bear I know what I'm getting.

How often do your check your phone for messages? (Shutterstock / alwaysloved afilm)

God forbid World War Three is triggered by a tweet; one Archduke Ferdinand would roll over in his tomb.

But I digress.

A little self-awareness — and a conscience — can go a long way toward fending off feelings of superiority and that destructive "every man, woman and child for themselves" mentality that is becoming disturbingly all too common today.

But that's much easier said than done for those whose perception of reality is hopelessly distorted and blurred by their infatuation with everyone's lives except their own.

The trick here, as with most things, is moderation, and one's ability to moderate it.

Here's your distorted reality

Which brings me to France, and that country's efforts to do just that by enacting a law that gives employees the right to ignore work-related emails outside their regular hours of work. 

Mark Zuckerberg has guided Facebook from a mere platform to one of the world's most influential businesses. (Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Image)

Sure, it sounds glorious. And it's fair to say legislators' hearts were in the right place.

Their heads, however, had to be — ahem — up somewhere else.

Talk about your distorted reality.

Please, someone, name me a profession today where there's no risk of losing ground, and eventually your job, by shutting it all down from the time you finish your shift until you return the next morning?

Or from Friday afternoon till Monday morning? Or (gasp!) the entirety of your vacation?

How far out of the loop is too far? 

The question becomes, how far out of the loop can you afford to be when you return? Fact is, it would be more work — and stress — to catch up on what you missed.

Many people find it hard to resist checking their social media feeds, even on vacation. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

That's certainly the case in the journalism trade. You may have the right to leave your phone at home. Heck, you're told to do so while on vacation, mostly to avoid roaming charges. But let's face it — you do so at your peril.

Interestingly enough, the French law was drafted with the intention of creating a healthier balance between work, and life away from it. More time freed up to spend with family, your partner, your kids.

And this just in: a new study suggests the new law is working. More people are relishing being unleashed from work.

Unfortunately, an even newer study shows people are spending all that newfound freedom on … Facebook.


Brian Callahan


Brian Callahan is a writer, journalist, musician and multi-tasking father. He was born and raised and is still living in St. John's.