I was talking to a patient yesterday about the changes in some workplaces, and the generation changes. He said that a place he used to work at no longer takes employees over the age of 55, seemingly because of the health conditions and the idea of retention. However, this had us talking about the fact that employing younger generations brings with it a different work ethic, young adults always have their heads in their phones, they don’t want to work full time, they call in sick and go out with their friends, they have call in sick because they “just can’t face coming in today” (someone recently said this to me), and they don’t have the initiative to think about what they can do to help the next shift. What happened to work ethics? And, why are we all buried in our screens, why are we emotionally attached to social media and technology, and have no idea about social niceties, politeness and respect?
As a nurse I work with other nurses of all ages, and I nurse patients of all ages. We get into some interesting discussions, and being “logged in” has become a very common one, one that we all agree on but that never seems to change. When you talk to someone who fits into the category of addiction to being available 24/7 they realise and agree this is a social issue, but they are horrified at being uncontactable in case they miss something. My husband is one of them. I suggest that instead of texting other people while we go out for dinner lets turn our phones off, leave them at home or put them on silent. The last thing I want to do is pay for an expensive meal while I watch him text other people, I could do that at home. So I am trying to instil a no technology on date night, quality outings and with a holiday coming up I was going to suggest a daily social media window as he will want to catch up with people post photos etc. Whereas I would rather wait until the end of the holiday and post a couple of my favourite photos on our way home, otherwise if you tell everyone on social media what you’ve been up to in real time, are we missing it ourselves, and what do we talk about when we “catch up” with people if there’s nothing to catch up because they were theoretically with us along the way. We’re living as if we are on reality tv, big brother really seems to be watching us, only we choose the audience. But what is this really doing to us?
We already have so many pressures. We have work, home and rest pressures leaving us unbalanced because how much rest do we really get? We have financial stresses. Keeping up with the Jones’ stressors. And now, we have social media stressors. We have to display an image of our lifestyle in the posts we make, the opinions we have and the photos we share. We feel pressure to respond to phone calls, texts and now people can see where we are when we were active and get annoyed when we don’t reply straight away. We have been managing like this for so long, not only do we get annoyed when we can’t reach someone and get a response straight away, we also don’t know how to shut off because we think it’s so important people are able to contact us or that we know we have a message we don’t know how to stop looking at our phones or just put them down and walk away.
My plan to combat this is turn off notifications. Once upon a time people walked around and lead a normal life having only a landline from which to be contacted, and I agree that there are times when we really do what to be contacted and know the information in real time, but we also need some downtime. I need to be contacted if my work start time changes, or if I’m having some work done on the house, I need to be able to contact my husband during the day to ask him to pick up some milk but don’t buy dinner because I already cooked it for him, so say good luck with your interview, but I don’t need to get instant updates on Facebook directing me to a cat video, I can look at that later when I’m waiting for a coffee. So my new tactic is to turn off social media notifications, so the only way to instantly contact me and get a response is by text messages, phone calls or facebook messenger so that I can asses the importance. I do have a smartwatch and it’s the same obviously due to the way they notify you. If my watch alerts me to a call or text at work I can determine if I need to leave the ward and return it, however if I was busy I would ignore it altogether, it would be best if I could even have it ignore all incoming communication while I’m working but I’m not sure that’s an option yet.
The problem isn’t that we are so attached to these things, although that is a problem. The real issue is what it’s done to people in society. We have a generation or a few generations who don’t have manners, are no longer polite, ethical or respectful. I see images all the time of teens sitting on public transport while the elderly stand, I see people walking around texting and bumping into people, I see people on the phone while they order their coffee but if the cashier did that to them what would the perception be? We have phones on us while we work, we reply to quick messages, make a quick call in the corridor, but we can’t make a conversation or be pleasant to customers in a face to face situation.
We’re all so connected all the time, yet we have so many anxiety issues, insomnia and depression. We should all allocate some time regularly to be disconnected each week, for a few hours or a day and see how it feels. I look forward to knowing I can’t be asked to do anything, I can’t be asked to come to work early, do extra hours, catch up with people and feel obligated to fit it all in when I’ve already planned a day to do the things I’ve been looking forward to. Don’t let your phone ruin your day!