December 12, 2019

Take control of your digital life

Technology has made many aspects of our lives better, but spare some time for real human interaction

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? It’s not hard to guess as everyone including me tends to gravitate toward our mobile phone — checking notifications, messages, news that happened overnight, and so on. Can you even imagine your life without the internet, social media and all your screens, from your phone to your tablet, laptop and 44-inch TV?

Technology has become such a big part of our lives that we have become dependent on it for everything. Now, there are applications to order and deliver your meals, to check on your health, or even an app to check the amount of steps you’ve taken in a day. Photography, music, movies … everything is available in the palm of your hand.

We are emotionally connected to our digital world as well, and not necessarily in a healthy way. I am sure you’ve experienced a power cut or even a slow internet connection — didn’t that make you feel annoyed? Here are some alarming figures to show you just how addicted we are to digital media.

According to the 2016 Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, one in three people checks their smartphone in the middle of the night, and 80% of users check their phone within one hour of waking or going to sleep, 35% of whom will do within five minutes. It found Americans were viewing their smartphones more often than ever, on average 52 times per day, up from 47 times daily the year before.

Research by Bank of America also says that we spend more time staring at our phones than making eye contact with humans. The average time spent on smartphones and tablets is 261 minutes a day, or four hours and 21 minutes, according to a research by BankMyCell in 2018.

A survey by Udemy in 2018 found that 70% of workers admit they feel distracted when they’re on the job. This problem is biggest for Gen Y and Gen Z, with 74% reporting feeling distracted.

Yes, that’s starting to sound like an addiction. The majority of people feel guilty when engaging in activities that have a negative impact on their lives, comparing it to a drug. How we respond comes down to whether we can maintain a healthy balance between using digital devices to get things done conveniently and efficiently, and prioritising leisure time for ourselves away from the tyranny of the screen.

Our lives are linked to technology, for better or for worse. Digital tools have made a huge difference in terms of how we accomplish our daily tasks, and have positively affected the economy and even improved living standards. Digitisation is sweeping the world, from businesses striving to innovate to governments looking for ways to serve their citizens better.

Every advancement has its pros and cons. As mentioned earlier, we are habituated to using the technological benefits available to us 24/7, whether it be our phones and electronic devices, or other devices that we now take for granted, from water heaters to microwave ovens.

Positive or Negative?

Technology has significantly enhanced our way of life in terms of accomplishing tasks, through cashless transactions, restaurant-quality meal delivery and other services that make for more comfortable living. Social networking is also playing a huge role, offering the ability and convenience of reaching out to people all over the world.

The digital revolution is also transforming education, making all kinds of learning easily accessible and affordable. Instead of textbooks, students are using online platforms. Instead of attending a class when they want to study a new language, they can download an app to learn online.

The downside of all this digital ubiquity is that more advanced technological developments are also leading to a higher rate of unemployment as more and more aspects of work become automated.

On a personal level, some people tend to use their devices too extensively or without a legitimate purpose. It’s easy to get lost and distracted in the online world, which affects productivity; attention spans are also getting shorter.

There’s a growing body of research showing how improper use of digital tools has health and safety consequences. And while the “creative destruction” brought on by the advancement of technology can be a good thing, we are seeing more individuals that have trouble thinking for themselves as they are so heavily influenced by what they consume on social media.

And when it comes down to quality time with family and friends, people don’t have the urge to go out anymore because they rely on “virtual bonding”. Therefore, a balance is needed between the two. If you spend too much time on one, you may be losing out on the other without realising it.

Imagine flipping a coin: will it come up heads or tails? Your digital life is like that: it can have a positive or negative outcome. At the end of the day, it is up to us to determine whether or not we utilise the powerful tools at our disposal in the correct way. Likewise, it is essential for us to use these tools for the utmost good and potential, rather than exploiting them for dubious ends.

If all of us came together in like manner, we could help influence and maybe even save those who are being led astray because of technology, making our world a better and more healthy place for ourselves and our future generations.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC – Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at or Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at