When does the food become the poison? Technology is supposed to be a tool to enrich your life, and indeed it does. Technology, in and of itself, is not your life. Looking around, however, it sure seems like it is, for many of us.
Technology is very addictive. Yet, very few people actively manage their tech consumption the way they do (or don’t, but at least know they should) their food, alcohol, or money habits. It’s misuse doesn’t make us fat, sloppy, or poor. So, why then, should we curtail our use of technology? What does a tech-overdose look like?
If you haven’t seen it in yourself, you’ve seen it or read about in others. Obsession with technology has ruined relationships and created the same kinds of addiction symptoms as drugs: irritability, inability to engage in sustained activities, withdrawal from “real” life — the list goes on. But it can also degrade the richness and quality of your physical, mental, and spiritual life. And that’s what we’re all about here at OmDePlume: enriching life in the digital age.
We can’t just shun technology. It’s more like food than alcohol that way. You stay completely away from it at your peril. My colleague Lois Whitman writes a blog, DigiDame, imploring the senior set not to sit on the sidelines of modern digital life. Her daily posts proselytize to the over-50 crowd about the wonders and miracles of digital life, trying to smooth their path to participation. She is constantly showing people how technology enriches lives and keeps people from becoming isolated — instead of the opposite, people becoming isolated because of technology, a common criticism of social media.
For younger generations, techno-shyness is not a problem. And wouldn’t the ones who do isolate instead of connecting, supposedly because of technology, be social pariahs anyway? At least they’re posting and texting.
To what degree, though, has living a life alongside technology become a challenge for the the so-called tech generations? To what degree have heavier users become more verbally taciturn, physically reticent, socially inept, and schizophrenically multitasking? (Ooh, was that a little too harsh? Look how cute these girls are using technology together.)
It’s still early on, this sea change which has occurred at warp speed. A mere three years ago — hear me now, believe me later — there was NO iPAD! And early on in a societal shift, we are often adrift about what it all means, let alone how to ride the fenceless territory.
How do we filter not just information, but our technology mix? Which devices do we buy, what applications do we download, and how many useful tools and cool gadgets do we really need to acquire? Curious minds need to know!
Curation is still an elusive art where technology is concerned. So let’s focus on a few tips to tame the tech shrew as we currently know it. We can choose to manage our relationship to technology, instead of allowing it to manage us.
Make a pre-commitment, where you decide ahead of time (just like “no snacking between meals”) to try at least one of these strategies. Each is identified as a structure, a behavior, or a perception. Depending on which of these is easiest for you to modify, focus on that first.
- Put your devices out-of-sight, out-of-mind for pre-determined times of the day: e.g., during meals, watching TV, on walks, while driving, at restaurants, at parties. (Structure)
- Consider interacting with your mobile device while in the company of others a rude affront that would never do. Because it is. (Perception)
- Limit computer activities — and your display screen — to one thing at a time, and stick with each one using a timer. Multi-tasking is a misnomer. You are actually switching back and forth, not working simultaneously. And that makes for notoriously poor results. (Structure)
- Close your email program and check it once an hour, on breaks, or three times a day. Don’t apologize for responding “late” to other people’s emails. (Behavior)
- Separate work and entertainment. Don’t try to work with the TV on, or with your games nearby, in other words. (Behavior)
- Use apps and tools that help you focus and organize your time. Examples: SaneBox, Mint.com. (Structure)
We’re all in this together, so please share your reactions and suggestions in the Comments below.
How about making a list of things that you like to do that don’t involve a phone or a computer, and another list of non-computer activities that a computer can enhance. (Locate the center of your life away from the Internet.)
What an inspiring suggestion. I’ll take that on as an assignment! What would your list say?
This is a great post and such good timing for me as I have recently started to use twitter and having discovered it’s usefulness for finding inspirational posts like this and connecting with wonderful people, I now need to find the balance. I have just started to use an alarm clock instead of my phone and only engaging with my phone, email and the internet after I have meditated and practiced yoga, so much better.
I totally agree that it is best to check your email at set times throughout the day, I used to have them automatically update on my phone but it is much more time efficient to respond to them in batches. So much better for the mind too, the information age which we live in is so exciting but we must centre ourselves or we will loose ourselves in it. I will add your blog to my blogroll as I think my readers will find it useful and look forward to connecting with you on Twitter and via your blog.
Thank you for your kind comments, Helen. I will check out your blog. I appreciate your reflections, and our new friendship! See you on Twitter!
Thank you for posting this great article.
I am working from home and just started a new business opportunity which i thought i could do within the company of my family but came to the conclusion that this will never work.
So that had to change for me and now i am back into my small office at home to get more work done in a shorter period and have more time to be fully available with my wife and 2 kids.
Its all about how you spend dailytime on work and freetime for family and friends when working at home.
Keep it separated when you can, close the door behind you when your work is done and be home again after closing that door.
Now i check a couple of times a day on news or email and work things out in my backoffice of my company but after that i am out off the office. Saves me a lot of time, my wife and kids have my full attention now and we all feel more happy now with this time schedule
Thank you for your thoughtful response. You mention some very useful structures — closing the door, scheduling email and news check-ins, separating work space and personal space. Everyone needs to look at which structures can be easily put in place and work for them. You obviously know yourself and are very mindful. Good luck with your new business! ~ Susan
As I was reading your article, on my iPad, I kept picking up my iPhone and checking Facebook and Google + to see if the “share” links worked (yes, I shared this article before I even finished reading it). I think I might have a problem .. Techonology Anonymous?
Dear Rob, I laughed out loud at “Technology Anonymous” — you make my entire point in two words. Brilliant! The first step in making any change is noticing. Sounds like you did that! ~ Susan
Very timely. I now have a laptop,iPhone and iPad and am spending far too much time on them and getting nothing else done. Discipline is needed urgently. Thank you Tony
Dear Mandy, Thank you for your comment. Yes, why have we not admitted that we are helpless when it comes to our devices and brought consciously to mind the idea that we must discipline ourselves where our technology is concerned? “I have a problem . . . ” is the first step to “recovery.” ~ Susan
Thank you Susan , What a Useful tips here .. But I got a question , How to make ourselves following these tips ? I mean , I have already read lots of tips and points , but the problem is what is gonna motivate me and makes me committed to these tips ?
Thank you ,
Dear Masih, Thank you for your compliment and for your question. It’s a good one. What indeed would motivate us to stop doing something — a lot of something — that doesn’t have obvious deleterious consequences? The definition of an addiction is the consumption of something that interrupts or eradicates quality or basic functioning of life. Maybe you’re not there yet with technology. Maybe it is more of a habit that is unhealthy, but you like it. But hopefully, in reading this and similar writings, merely bringing awareness to when and how you are “bingeing” on technology will bring you presence of mind. When you notice, start small with a structural change. Stand up and walk around your desk, your house, your block, or your neighborhood. The change in your physical structure gives you a few minutes to refocus, rethink, and regroup. The more you do a small thing like this, the more you will be able to feel your way and create your own schedules and rules for separating technology from physical, mental, and spiritual life. Let me know how it goes, would you? ~ Susan
Thank you so much Susan , Yeah you are right about changing small things. we need to do something to get our focus back and refresh our mind to get back to the right place that we need to be. I will definitely do , and will let y`all know. Thanks again.
Mindfulness is such a good thing. Thanks for your encouragement. We’re keeping the topic alive today. Let me know what you think.
Interesting article, never thought of tech as an addiction before. But I completely agree, I find myself on the laptop every sparetime I get, especially when most of your homework, and business stuff is online.
Dear Gurj, Thank you for your thoughts. Glad you’re noticing! I’ll be interested to hear what, if any, fallout you experience from merely observing yourself. In smoking cessation programs, they have you observe yourself and journal for a few weeks before even trying to cut back or quit. Most people cut back their smoking by 1/3 to 2/3 anyway, just from becoming mindful. Remarkable, eh? ~Susan
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Thanks for your kind words! Family Day in Ontario! Those Canadians! 🙂