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Red was exhausted. Not only did he have a grueling day at work, he also received news from back home that his mother was in the hospital for hyperthyroidism. It was a good thing that the ship he was on board allowed Internet access, and he found himself in bed, scrolling through his phone. Those funny videos helped relax him, and it helped ease his anxieties about his mother.
He did not notice the silence around him as most people settled into bed. Nor did he notice the time slipping by as he scanned the feeds on his social media accounts, feeling sorrier and sorrier for himself. Then with a jolt, he realized that it was nearly time for his alarm to go off—and he hadn’t slept yet. But that was fine. It was just the fifth consecutive day he surfed rather than slept—he would make up for the lost sleep tonight.
The advent of social media has undeniably helped seafarers all over the world. With more than half of them resorting to it as means of communication, it is safe to say that such is a tool to better lives on board. But when does social media become unhelpful? How does social media affect our health and productivity?
Building a mentally healthy workplace needs quality social interaction. But as Red admits, with Internet access, there is the tendency to stay in his cabin surfing, leaving less opportunity to socialize with his crew mates face to face. The International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) technology study revealed that 40% of our seafarers feel that crew interaction has lessened because of social media. Seafarers are cut off from their lives ashore and they tend to peek at it through their phones—but they tend to forget the actual people they could interact with on board.
While social media is great for keeping updated with loved ones’ lives onshore, it can also trigger negative emotions such as guilt, envy, jealousy, and depression. Imagine going through a rough day on board and ending up seeing your friends’ fun-filled tweets and stories showcasing travel, parties, and promotions. Or imagine wanting to forget certain past events, and Facebook Memories shoves them back at you daily. Red admits to feeling left out and indulging in self-pity after seeing his family gatherings and his friends’ vacations.
While some can deal with these feelings, we have to acknowledge that on sea, with the distance and the dysfunctions of virtual media lives, seafarers will need a way to process what they see online. Otherwise, they can risk falling into depression, or at the very least, foster sadness and dejection.
Red also recalls that there were times when work backlogs and deadlines also ate into his rest time, but rather than catch up on rest, he would ‘rest’ by going online. As Red puts it, “It’s like I need to stay awake because there’s fear of missing out (FOMO).” Naturally, this did not help him, mentally or physically. The USA National Sleep Foundation says that when a person does not get enough sleep, he or she becomes indecisive, distracted, and unable to fully engage in any activity. Other than the time suck of social media, seafarers can get information overload and may be easily awakened by beeps of notifications and glowing screens.
We should be grateful for how technology has helped us stay in touch and communicate. However, we must realize that responsibility comes along with the provision. Red is on the right track. He vows to control the time he spends on social media to give time for due rest. He will also use better judgement when reading the posts of others, and will refrain from comparing his life to others’. He will also reach out more often to his crew mates. He won’t let the virtual world take over his life.
And to all of our seafarers out there whose use of technology has become a hindrance to your mental and physical health: reevaluate your clicks, review your posts, replay your views, and rethink your choices.
Your life is more than your feeds. Live, and live healthy.