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.