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Monday, March 30, 2020
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Do we all need to take a moment of social media silence?

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Have you ever experienced the feeling of bewilderment when a family member strolls into your sitting room to ask who’s leading the golf, only for you to realise you can’t answer them? You’ve tumbled down a rabbit hole of the latest thread of tweets about William and Kate meeting President Higgins’ dogs, or where the latest case of Covid-19 has hit and haven’t being paying attention.

It’s news to nobody that smartphone addiction is a reality, even if some of us may not want to admit it. Recent stories of Caroline Flack’s death, the reporting of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash by TMZ, and even the negativity surrounding the launch of the Golf Ireland brand have highlighted how unnecessarily horrible our online world can become.

I recently listened to the audiobook ‘Digital Minimalism’ by Cal Newport. It came recommended from numerous sources but once I heard it was on a certain Rory McIlroy’s reading list, I was convinced.

Newport explains the epidemic of ‘solitary deprivation’ whereby we have all become so dependent on using our smart phones that we have lost the ability to sit with our own thoughts. Various research has found correlation between higher smart phone use and increased levels of anxiety, particularly in teenagers.

The constant onslaught of news, images and online chatter would break the most sound minded. There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the symptoms – the constant urge to take out your phone and check WhatsApp, email or social media feeds. The strange dull sensation of a moment when you’re not using digital media. How did we end up here?

I don’t pretend to be in any way an expert, paradoxically, due to the nature of my work. I spend most of my waking hours within an arm’s reach of my phone, however I have recently made one conscious decision to combat this. Golf.

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A study undertaken by The R&A reported that playing golf can provide ‘moderate intensity physical activity and has overall positive associations with physical health and mental wellness.’ Upping your step count is a universally advertised physical affect but maybe next time you head to the driving range or course, consider leaving your distraction device in the car.

Golf has been presented with a unique opportunity in the battle to ‘switch off’. One of the ‘stuffy rules’ which may be worth holding on to is one where phones are not welcome on the course. Walking the fairways is unlike other sports. It is a time when we have a chat, face-to-face no less, while competing, and it is nearly expected that nobody will be looking at their phone.

It may seem extreme, but I do find myself negotiating some withdrawal symptoms, which includes FOMO (the fear of missing out) and a constant urge to ‘have one quick look’. Who knows, I may commit to a longer digital declutter in the future but, for now, I am mindfully switching off on the golf course and enjoying the silence.

And, if you must continue your scrolling habit, remember – in a world where you can be anything, #BeKind.

To read the joint GUI/ILGU Statement on staying safe around the golf course, follow the link HERE

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