Apple CEO Tim Cook Is Worried About Social Media And You Should Be Too

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If you’re reading this story, you probably got here because of social media. Yes, I’m aware of the great irony about writing about possible negative impacts of social media, and sharing them on social media. Yet social media is the best way to communicate a critical message, so here we are!

Social media is a powerful force in the 21st century world. Almost everyone with some sort of internet access likely has a social media account in one form or another, Facebook, Twitter, The Maven (a new alternative platform), etc. These platforms are ubiquitous, almost everyone is looking down at their phone while out and about, or at work, or at home. And it’s only becoming more prevalent with time.

We are more than a decade into the social media age, and there is new research and anecdotal evidence to show that social media is becoming more than just a distraction: it’s literally an addiction. Even some of the world’s biggest tech gurus are wary of social media (I guess because they understand its power more than anyone).

Apple CEO Tim Cook is one of those wary tech figures. Cook, while he does not have any children of his own, is concerned for his young nephew when it comes to social media access. Indeed, he doesn’t even want his nephew on a social media network at all.

Speaking at Harlow College in England, Cook said that he doesn’t want to see a world where we are all constantly on our devices all the time. That’s not progress in his assessment.

“I don’t believe in overuse [of technology]. I’m not a person that says we’ve achieved success if you’re using it all the time,” he said. “I don’t subscribe to that at all.”

Even in industries like graphic design and computer-aided work, Cook does not believe that tech should be the dominating force all the time.

“There are are still concepts that you want to talk about and understand. In a course on literature, do I think you should use technology a lot? Probably not.”

Apple was giving out iPads to all students at the college as an educational tool. Some may see this as hypocritical, but I’m not so sure I’d jump at that so fast. I’d say he’s being realistic about the need for technology in our world, but provided important words of caution about overuse of the devices.

Cook is absolutely right, especially when it comes to young kids. As the husband of a school teacher, I hear constantly about how technology is contributing to all sorts of anxiety-related disorders and behaviors in school-aged kids.

From the time they can hold anything with fine motor skills, kids are on handheld electronic devices. I’ve seen four year olds who can handle tablets more efficiently than their parents can; it’s honestly kind of scary.

What often happens is that parents will put their kids onto the tablet or phone to distract them, to keep them busy. However, this not without consequence, because kids are literally becoming addicted to their devices; and I use the word addicted very intentionally and purposefully.

A recent study on mobile phone usage found that about 50% of teens feel like they are addicted to their smartphones. Those who fall into that category are likely to experience some sort of social anxiety without their phones, have difficulty concentrating, and even depression.

These are some of the symptoms my wife sees in her classroom, and that’s with 1st and 2nd graders. At home, parents often placate their kids with the devices, but over time it creates an addiction and it causes high levels of anxiety and mood swings when they don’t have it, just like a drug addiction. When they go to school and don't have their devices, they can't concentrate and act out.

With this evidence now becoming more widely accepted, it’s time for us to seriously consider just how often we are on our smartphones and social media. Do we really need to be checking our Facebook every ten minutes? Or checking our emails every 15 minutes? Or just randomly scrolling on whatever social media platform? Probably not.

Especially for parents, this is critical. We cannot have a happy and thriving society if its members are addicts and slaves to their electronic devices. We should endeavor to be proactive on this issue, force ourselves to put the phones and tablets down, and talk to each other face to face, to read a book, to take a walk; something that gets us away from this addiction.

Do you think you're addicted to your phone and social media? If so, what do you plan on doing about it?

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