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So, how did you all start out 2018? Was January the kick-start to your goals, dreams and true aspirations? Like many of us, the first month of the year is often a post-holiday downslide, the parties over and decor stored away for another year. And let’s talk about those goals and resolutions — maybe you’re trying to quit smoking, get fit or drop some pounds.

Yours truly didn’t have to make any health-related goals for 2018: our family doctor did it for me. While I normally get my blood checked four times a year for my ongoing cancer therapy, an early January blood test revealed cholesterol levels now at an all-time high, so I’ve taken that news to heart and am now eating less of the good and none of the bad.

Oakley Escapade technical shirt

You might not find me sipping a cocktail poolside anytime soon, but with several trips on the horizon, I’ll be rising to the challenge of getting – and staying – fit once and for all.

The irony of posting this on Bell Let’s Talk Day is not lost on me. I understand the importance of this topic but mental health and physical health should be on equal par. For my foodie friends who love to indulge in gigantic ice cream parfaits and duck fat fries, just keep checking your cholesterol levels.

Once you hit 40, you’re a ticking time bomb for both adult diabetes and heart attacks.

Facebook

And speaking of mental balance, the Globe and Mail recently came out with an article that rose to the occasion of social media addiction. The big guns in Silicon Valley (some of the very ones that developed all the groovy apps that we all check multiple times a day) are now in full transparency mode.

Smartphones are causing real damage to our minds and relationships, measurable in seconds shaved off the average attention span, reduced brain power, declines in work-life balance and hours less of family time.

From that article, I’ve included a few sentences that really made me take notice.

Social Media Keyboard

Last year, ex-employees of Google, Apple and Facebook, including former top executives, began raising the alarm about smartphones and social media apps, warning especially of their effects on children.

According to Chris Marcellino, a tech employee who helped develop the iPhone’s push notifications at Apple, smartphones hook people using the same neural pathways as gambling and drugs.

“I feel tremendous guilt,” said Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice-president of user growth at Facebook, in a public talk in November. “I think we all knew in the back of our minds… something bad could happen. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” he went on gravely, before a hushed audience at Stanford business school. “It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave.”

Tristan Harris, former product manager at Google, has taken the timely issue a step further via his non-profit Time Well Spent, aimed at raising awareness among consumers about the dangers of the attention economy as well as put pressure on the tech world to design products more ethically.

Social Media
[Flickr photo by magicatwork]

Our smartphones have the sophistication of being able to get us checking them about 150 times a day (on average).

Taking a cue from this article, you bet I’ll be outdoors now more than ever, cutting back on smart phone usage, much as I’m guilty as the next person of checking and posting on a regular basis.

Facebook/Instagram gallery

Now back to the mental health correlation: Smartphone app makers believe that part of the reason we’re curious about app notifications is people on the whole are desperately insecure and crave instant positive feedback. And did you know that Instagram exploits this to the fullest by “strategically withholding ‘likes’ from certain users”?

Instagram

The app decides if you’re not checking it often enough by showing only a fraction of the likes you’ve actually received, hoping you’ll be disappointed and check back more often as a result. I’m sure this comes as nothing new to many of you, however it’s worth your while to have a read.

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