The doldrums of winter tend to ignite our entertainment cravings more than any other season. There seems to be no better remedy for a long day at work, a blistering cold front and the dark outdoors than the comfort and amusement of our technological devices. Call it leisure or escapism, we are all familiar with setting our minds to autopilot.
While books, TV shows and movies still sometimes do the trick, technology within the last 10 years has opened a whole new realm of entertainment. Social media like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook have given us enough entertainment to last for centuries.
As a result, technology often has the upper hand in our lives. It consumes our free time, distracts us at stoplights and keeps us from the dinner table. In the end, we’re more exhausted after the 50th YouTube video than when we first began.
Technology can be a great stress reliever, but it’s arguably the biggest culprit of wasted time and tired minds. Instead of allowing technology to drain us, we should use it to stretch our brain, pique our creativity and grow our network.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of social media is its unprecedented gateway to information and education. Thanks to video sites like YouTube and millions of user-generated blogs, the student can master calculus homework, the world traveler can practice Chinese, and the bachelor can learn to fry an egg.
Getting the most out of what technology has to offer begins with indulging our curiosities and living with a student mindset. For those willing to experiment in unfamiliar areas, there’s plenty to discover outside of college lectures. Platforms like Khan Academy offer free, world-class education in areas like biology, computer programming, finance and history. The site allows users to learn at their own pace through interactive exercises.
Whether you are 23 or 72, it’s OK to be a beginner at something. With access to the world’s bank of knowledge right at your fingertips, it’d be foolish to miss the latest video on space exploration or skip out on an online creative writing class.
This time of year often leaves people in a creative drought. Technology can either sustain this lackluster mindset or cure the uninspired. Instead of fielding through endless Facebook posts of old college friends, follow people on Instagram whose pictures and stories take you around the globe and give you ideas for your own backyard. Expanding your world can be as simple as following National Geographic or a food blogger in San Francisco.
Sometimes it’s our brain that needs the refreshing. Lumosity, a program designed by neuroscientists, challenges memory and attention span through personalized games. The Beats Music app curates songs that fit an individual’s fluctuating moods, whether needing to wake up faster or calm down and relax. It uses fill-in-the-blank sentences that develop along the lines of: “I’m in traffic and feel like I’m going back in time with my best friend to classic rock and roll.” Technology has the capability to introduce you to the songs, experiences and words that can give you that much-needed creative jolt.
When used correctly, social media can be one of your best networking tools. Learn as much as possible about a company or a person from their social media platforms before your next job interview or social event. Familiarizing yourself with a company’s voice can help trigger ideas and guide conversation.
In the same way that social media is a branding tool for companies, it also allows individuals to have their own trademark and join communities who share the same interests. For instance, Instagram meetups happen all across Nashville, connecting dance partners, book critics and outdoor explorers. Showcasing your craft or hobbies on social media can connect you with like-minded enthusiasts across the globe.
Technology should serve us and not the other way around. Instead of allowing it to control our emotions and consume our energy, it’s important to use it as a source of knowledge, inspiration and connection.
This post originally appeared in The Tennessean.
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