Technology is a double-edged sword. Even as we’re consumed by it, we recognize the danger: people connected through digital relationships and experiences rather than face-to-face ties; dinner conversations forsaken for texting and surfing, all through the convenience of a phone screen; people literally dying when they walk off a ledge into some danger while looking down at their phone; relationships damaged or lost because screen time was more important than spouse time.
That’s the tip. The iceberg is large, and it’s frightening.
I spend a lot of my working days in front of my laptop, writing emails, creating newsletters, doing other tasks that have me staring into my screen. Then in my down time I work on my books, writing on my laptop; I work on my blog and website, writing on my laptop; I research, on my laptop; I do my banking on my laptop; I sometimes shop on my laptop; I stay in touch with social media on my laptop; I read on my laptop. I stream music, and sometimes movies, on my laptop. Some of these tasks I can also do on my phone.
I make calls, using my cell phone; I text on my cell phone; I read and process email on my phone; I check websites on my phone. I make photos with my phone.
All of this interaction with technology, and I don’t even play games! I don’t visit sites that would embarrass me to acknowledge; I don’t do a lot of casual internet surfing. I don’t have or watch TV…even in hotel rooms where a TV is available, I just forget to turn it on.
Some of the time I’m using my computer, or even my phone, I’m not online. I’m just using one of the programs I have to create, or read, or handle some other task.
Some of the time I am online, actively connected to the internet and the world through that portal.
I tell myself, living part of the year in remote locations in Alaska, my online world is not just a matter of convenience. Often it’s the movie theater, the mall, my bank, my way to communicate, my library, my source of news, my travel planner, my music, my creative outlet.
I read recently about technology addiction…hardly a new concept, I’ve been hearing about this phenomenon for a while. But this article was about new programs designed to help people, especially young people, learn to live a real life without the constant contact of phone or digital interaction.
The programs are expensive, not covered by insurance, and people who are desperate pay to have a hope of getting their lives back. Or sometimes parents pay to get their kids back.
The reality is, we’re literally in unchartered territory, all of us in this world of high tech, high speed, information flying around the globe electronically, the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly of social media shaping and spinning our opinions, our days, and in some cases, our very lives.
Is this a case of can’t see the forest for the trees?
I don’t want to be swallowed by something bigger than myself…bigger than all of us.
I don’t want to be a Luddite either.
I make rules about technology to try to manage the beast.
- No phone during dinner, or when I’m out walking, or talking face to face.
- Take breaks during the day to be with actual people, not Facebook.
- Limit Pinterest and similar sites that are delicious time sucks.
- Don’t neglect physical needs and chores for digital time.
- Go.to.bed. Don’t let technology rule my schedule.
- Be respectful of where I am and what’s going on around me.
- If I engage with someone on social media, make it positive. I’m not going to rant, or be ranted at.
- Be honest about how much time, and what ways, I’m using technology.
Occasionally I do without. I’ve attended week-long programs that required giving up phone and internet to participate, and I did just fine.
When I travel out of the country, I’m typically a lot less connected, and I do just fine.
The question I’m posing to myself is a hard one to answer. Am I interfacing so much with laptop and phone, technology in general, because that’s just the way life works in this age? Or have I let it get beyond a healthy point, and I can’t see it?
I think I know the answer, and I’m good with it.
I know I enjoy a real conversation over one that’s texted.
I enjoy real travel over pretty photos.
I can voluntarily give up my phone for a week at a time and not go into panic mode or have withdrawal symptoms.
I want great photos of family and friends and sunsets, but I also want to see things with my own eyes, not just through the lens of my camera.
Is it a balancing act? Yes, no doubt about it. If I worked in a different world, in a different field, at least the work component might be different. But I don’t. I largely work at a desk, and that desk has a laptop.
The challenge is to be honest, to be thoughtful about what I’m really doing with my time in front of a screen, of any size, and to be willing to use self-discipline, take technology breaks, and recognize that I want a real life, not a digital life.
What about you?
Are you a tech addict?