SOCIAL ACCESSIBILITY: HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
Updated: May 2, 2020
There was once a time when the day was punctuated by two stops; sunrise and sunset.
This provided our hours with structure, dividing the components of the day up into segments. We woke with the sun, worked through the day, and rested when the evening came.
As society evolves, technological advancements continue to displace our traditional habits.
Previously,11pm was a time reserved for sleep and restoration. Nowadays at this same time you can be responding to a work email, purchasing a new vacuum cleaner, and talking to your Great Aunt that lives in Ireland, all from the very comfort of your bed. Even this exact article was written at 11pm on a Tuesday night!
The point is, humans have around the clock access to pretty much anything you can think of in the world. The truth however, also exists in the opposite; the world now has 24 hour access to us.
The boundaries that once divided work and leisure have been forever blurred.
When we enter the comfort of our homes each night, everything that this planet has to offer comes in with us. The good, the bad, and the evil.
The speed at which news travels is exponential. You are now more likely to find out about a natural disaster occurring half way across the globe, than you are to notice a small kitchen fire at your next door neighbours.
The work / life balance has essentially been obliterated, and consumers want access to unlimited goods and services on demand. Delayed gratification is a thing of the past and if it's not instant, it's effectively not wanted.
So this poses the question,
How much accessibility is too much?
The fact is that the answer to this will inevitably vary from person to person, however, at what point does the non-existent barrier between what we are exposed to need to be re-built? And when is it that we simply need to say no to being on-call 24/7?
Personally, I think the real issue here is not the advancement in technology itself (as it would be naive to say such progression hasn't benefited our world in a plethora of ways), but it is in the all consuming social parameters humans have built around it.
We expect that that if we message someone, we will get an instant reply.
We expect that when ordering a product from overseas it will come in almost impossible timing.
And we expect that we have access to global affairs as instantaneously as they occur.
Falling behind the eight ball in keeping up with the rest of the world can almost make you feel as if you've been excluded from the bubble. Not seeing a text in time might mean you miss out on a movie with your friends, failing to keep up with the latest reality T.V. drama can leave you out of the conversation, and actually switching off your work device when you... wait for it... leave work, can mean you're practically asking to be fired.
With this constant stimulation it is inevitable that our minds are active every second of the day. There are a million things to stay on top of, and a million more things to remember. It's no longer good enough to just give your friend a nice card on their birthday, you now have to also post to their several social media accounts after searching for some old pictures, as well as text or call them in the morning so they know you also wanted to wish them a happy birthday "personally". Reading the morning paper will only give you ancient news from yesterday that is now futile in the medias eyes, you need to scroll through Facebook and watch the breakfast show while you get ready for work.
More than most even notice, this type of constant stimulation can take its toll on your body, and your health. You may find yourself in an unexplainable bad mood one afternoon, when in reality it is probably just your mind dealing with all the bad news the world had to report that morning. Even seemingly harmless actions involving people you love can have an effect on your mindset. If you've got friends that like to constantly converse over text, you are likely not even noticing how much wasted time spent typing on your phone goes by.
The security of our personal availability needs to be more selectively monitored in order to maintain balance in our life. It is pivotal to remember that although falling out of reach from the rest of the worlds issues at times is necessary. Ignorance really can be bliss in some circumstances. So in keeping with this current issue of excessive social accessibility, these are my top tips in maintaining work and social boundaries:
1. If it's not urgent, you don't have to reply
Every single time someone contacts you on a type of media communication, chances are, you'll reply. At times, this can interrupt the activity you are involved in or take up a few minutes to stop and construct a reply. Even though these may seem minor at the time, all these disruptions can really add up!!
If your not in work hours and a matter isn't urgent, you really don't have to reply until you are! Same goes for the mindless chatter that follows a group chat, I promise your friends will still like you if respond to every meme they send!! Basically the tip here is to just leave your phone on silent or quiet volume so it doesn't disturb you, and perhaps glance at the home screen every now and then to read if anyone urgently needs you. If not, that reply can wait for a time that better suits you! I personally reply to most of my "non-urgent" messages on my daily train trip commute, as this is generally not a time when I have to focus my attention on anything else.
2. Be honest
Have you ever told someone a little white lie about why you couldn't see them? Don't feel guilty if yes, because I think we can all vouch for the fact that sometimes this just feels like the easier option.
It comes from a place of not wanting to make whoever sed person is that you can't see, not feel like they are unimportant. But why is it that we can't just say we feel like staying in? What's so bad about wanting a personal day for yourself?
The sad truth is, we have these thoughts from being conditioned to believe that being contactable 24/7, means being available 24/7!
Be honest with your friends, colleges, etc! If you simply don't feel like attending a particular event, or taking on some type of responsibility, you do not have to. There doesn't need to be some made up excuse about your dog going to the vet, or your fridge suddenly breaking! You just need to say your grateful for the offer but just need some time to yourself. You should always be your first priority. You can't help others anyway, if you're not your best self!
3. Establish the boundaries
This final tip ties everything in this article together; Establish your boundaries!!
Whether its with a friend, colleague, or even family member... boundaries are essential. It's the same principle that we apply to children and rebellious teens; we give them certain rules they have to follow. Although they may put up a tantrum or try to argue initially, their older and wiser selves are always grateful. The same should apply to our relationships with others as we grow up. You need to communicate with the people you are involved with, and establish your boundaries as early on as you can.
It may be as simple as telling your colleagues that once 5pm hits on a Friday evening, you will not be checking your work emails. If there is an urgent matter perhaps provide a back up way for them to contact you. The same goes for mates that sometimes ask for a little more than they give in a friendship! Be open about your quirky boundaries, whatever they may be! I guarantee that the relationships built off respecting each others boundaries, are the ones that will truly last.
So to conclude, I hope that you can at least just take home with you this one thought; it is okay to disconnect at sometimes.
Feeling "drained" as many people say, is too commonly heard, and likely very easy to fix. Switch off your phones, T.V's, radios, and laptops. You don't need to be contactable 24 hours a day. Take some time to yourself, without worrying what the rest of the world is doing.
In order to reset you need to take a step back from everything that is happening. We are over stimulated in society today, and feel drained is essentially inevitable if you don't take the time to manage yourself.
Switching off for a moment will give you some perspective that whether you are on your phone or not... the world will go on.
Do something good for yourself. We apologise too much for doing just that.