Breaking free from our technology addiction

Reflections from Pickersgill’s photographs

Photographer Eric Pickersgill’s photographs (see below) from his "removed" album require no descriptions but speak to us on many levels. It is a well-known fact that our society is obsessed and addicted to their cellphones. Social media accounts for a large proportion of the time individuals spend on their phones. In fact, 18 percent of social media users can’t go a few hours without checking Facebook and on average one quarter of a workday is spent browsing social media for non-work related activities (Bennett, 2014). It was also no surprise when we heard the number of selfie-related deaths have surpassed the number of shark related deaths. Many of us meet the textbook definition of “addicted”.

From his photographs what struck me the most was the extent to which our addiction has impacted our lives. We spent most of our leisure time being so engaged in our devices that we are missing out on the real life events and people around us. Social media has its advantages that we can appreciate, such as providing us an inside look into the lives of our friends and allowing us to share our own personal live event. The question that we must ask ourselves is what has our “need to know attitudes” made us sacrifice? According to research, we are addicted to social media because self-disclosure is associated with activation of the reward system regions of the brain, which give us a good feeling when we are on social media. Like any other addiction, when we are not using it, we experience withdrawal symptoms (Stein, 2014).

So then what is the issue? The issue is we are missing out on all of the other stuff around us, such as real life, face-to-face conversations with friends and family and physical activities. Not only are these important to your emotional health and well-being, they also positively impact your physical health.

Pickersgill’s photographs (presented below) depict individuals in social situations that are surrounded by beautiful sceneries yet remain grossly consumed in their devices that they are missing out on everyone and everything that is around them. Why we would rather be interacting to our social network via text or social media and ignoring the ones standing right beside us? Why would we rather “like” a beautiful photo of a view but fail appreciate what is physically around us? We have reached an era where it is widely acceptable to be on our phones most of the time that we are out with other people. We seem to get greater satisfaction from our virtual Internet world than the world that is physically around us.

Our obsession is a real concern and some may even go as far as to say that it is causing us to loose our in person social skills, empathy and communication skills.

While we can recognize that technology in moderation has provided us with many advantages, we may often fail to recognize the impacts of overuse and what we are giving up while being glued to our phones. We live in a world where people attribute their self worth to the number of “likes” they receive on a picture on Instagram and gain satisfaction from gaining “friends” or “followers”.

What are we actually giving up when we devote so much of our time to being glued to our phones? I made a decision to limit my social media use for a week for #PutPhoneDown and find out what other things I was missing out on. Listed below are my findings and thoughts:

1)    Social media is great entertainment. During long transit commutes I initially found myself bored but later found that I can be quite productive by using commute time to prepare to do lists for the day.

2)    I was able to truly admire and appreciate the beauty of fall and the changing colors of the trees. It often becomes difficult to do notice the physical environment around me with my eyes glued to your phone.

3)    I had a lot more free time. Since I was not checking social media as often, I was able to finish tasks much more efficiently. Given the greater free time, I had more time to reflect on my days and was even able to enjoy a nice fall day sitting outside with a book and a coffee.

4)    During the week I went to a no cellphone dinner with a friend and noticed that a difference in the level of engagement we experienced in our conversations.

The most important lesson I walked away with was that by being “offline” in the internet world and being “online” in the real world, I was missing out on things that I actually enjoyed doing and that are good for me. Leisure time can be spent on much more than simply sitting somewhere nice and scrolling through my social media news feeds.

Your turn: What are you missing out on by being so consumed with social media on your device? Tell us how it goes on twitter at #PutPhoneDown! 


 Bennet, S. (2014). Social media addiction: Statistics and trends. Retrieved from

 Pickersgill, E. (2015). Retrieved from

Stein, E. (2014). Is Social Media Dependence a Mental Health Issue? Retrieved from