The distractions of modern social media

We are at a very exciting and amazing time in human evolution, and at the same time, a very scary time. Social media is supposed to make us more connected, and it can, but not if we never look up from our phones or tablets. Over the past 16 years as a trainer I have seen a lot of trends come and go, some useful, some not. Lately it is fascinating to see droves of people in the gym ‘working out’, but honestly, the muscle they are working the hardest is their thumb. Head down, half-hearted effort to the workout and full effort to the mobile device in their hand. Heart rate never rises, blood flow never increases, muscles never adapt and not a single new person met.

There are some cool new apps out there to help with a workout, but I am here to tell you for a fact nothing works as well as a workout partner, (an actual human one), or a personal trainer. Devices do not gauge effort levels or passion the way a human being can.

I watched the movie Transcendence recently and basically it is about the struggle between artificial computer intelligence and people fighting to ‘unplug’. Certainly both sides made some interesting points, but I am hoping we never have to go to that extreme.

I have to say that I really rely on my mobile devices and my ability to work remotely from different places. It allows me the freedom to not always be at the office or the gym, but yet still serve my clients and my staff on a daily basis. In that respect, it is freedom. It allows me to be home with my two-year-old son more often, because I can work from my cell phone, tablet or home office at different times of the day. This means that daddy can be home for bath time, read a story or help mommy out etc., and then work for three hours after baby is in bed. It means I can travel to visit family, and as long as I have a connection I can still work a few hours as needed. My phone has my calendar in it, to make sure I do not miss appointments, and it holds so many photos and videos of my family. I used to laugh when people said phones would replace my fancy digital SLR camera, but they were right! My cell phone has not only increased the quality with each new generation, but it is always with me and handy when those magical moments happen. There are apps now that can help you track your daily calories burned, how much you eat and track your progress. My emails come right to my phone, so I can respond faster, and I can keep tabs on my friends and family far away through facebook.

With all of that said though, my phone is also a ball and chain. I am almost never ‘not at work’. My phone is nearly always on, and I am essentially never away from the office. I work seven days a week and am ready to serve my business 24-hours a day. It’s handy, but it can be quite exhausting.

With how handy it is, and how potentially invasive it can be – I feel it is important to set up some rules. When I am training; my phone is off or in airplane mode. I do not answer the phone when I am eating with my family. I will never answer the phone while I am going to the bathroom. During my son’s nighttime routine, phone is away in another room. My wife and I go on at least a vacation or two a year where I turn my phone totally off.

So if you want to have better workouts; unplug for that time. If you want a better family life and relationship; unplug and talk face to face. Nothing says love like eye contact.

Once in a while, turn off everything and go run around in the forest. We need that real connection in so many ways.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.