The impact of the ‘always on’ culture...

If you go back 25 years the world was a very different place, the internet had only just become publicly available, the fax machine was enjoying its heyday and mobile phones resembled the cordless house phones you’d see in an American film - the only difference being the colour. We also seemed to have more time for each other back then, and even though a technological revolution was beginning to find its feet, we certainly weren’t living in an ‘always on’ culture like we are today.    

Whether we are checking our work emails, doing some online shopping or just chuckling at the latest cat meme your friend has tagged you in, we are all guilty of using our mobile phones too much. We have become reliant on the pocket-sized creation that has become an integral part of our lives, so much so that scientists have coined a term for the fear of being out of mobile phone contact – Nomophobia.

The ‘always on’ work culture has gained momentum due to the mobility and accessibility consumers have thanks to today’s technology, and while we may brush it off as normal because we think everyone else is doing the same, there are consequences to it. Spending more and more time in work mode can see your relationships suffer with less quality time being spent with your partner, children or friends. People need a distraction from their working life and taking time out is essential to maintain a healthy balance.

So if most of us are guilty of being part of this ‘always on’ culture, be it in our personal life or working life, what can we do to break the cycle? A good start could involve setting aside a few hours each week to sit down with your friends for a meal, taking it in turns at each other’s homes and avoiding a restaurant setting where it would no doubt prove harder to switch off. You’d be surprised how committing a bit of time to a meal together can alleviate the negatives of this ‘always on’ era we live in. 

If you really want to disrupt the status quo, why not get your friends to leave their phones at the door? Perhaps by doing this you can combat Nomophobia as a team and if there are no mobiles present, there is much less chance of anyone getting distracted. As Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gough, once said, ‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.’ You wouldn’t usually trust a man who cut off his own ear, but Van Gough had a point.

We may not agree with everything that our neighbours across the Channel do, but a law recently introduced by the French government could prove they are not surrendering to the 24/7 work culture, but instead offering their working citizens the chance to switch-off and potentially avoid burning out. The ‘right to disconnect’ law came into effect on January 1, 2017, and mainly seeks to tackle the modern-day problem of out-of-hours email checking, something around a third of French employees do every day.

So why don’t we take a leaf out of Gallic friends’ livres and learn to properly switch off so we can make time for those closest to us? After all, an email received at 8:30pm is hardly going to have a profound effect on your life, but sitting down with your family or friends for a meal, forgetting about work and enjoying good food and an even better conversation could help a lot.

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