Technology is magical and fantastic -- it takes us to places we'll
never go... allows us to reconnect with high school pals or say "I
love you" via text, e-mail, instant message (or all three)... and lets
us watch, again and again, the sweet moments of a child's first piano
recital... and, if you're so inclined, to share them with the world on
Facebook or YouTube.
However, technology also tends to take over our lives, says Daily
Health News contributor and life coach Lauren Zander, noting that all
these devices have complicated much about our lives -- even the
single, simple and supposedly mindless act of relaxing. Watching your
favorite sitcom on TV has turned into an exercise of "hit the mute
button during commercials and do e-mail or text on your laptop or
phone," points out Lauren. Technology blocks our ability to live the
good life by gulping up available time that could, and often should,
be spent on other more productive activities... and by putting up a
barrier that gets in the way of relationships and experiences that
could otherwise be more enriching. Lauren and I discussed how to turn
this around so that we all stay in charge of our technology... and not
the other way around.
Who Has "Free" Time?
Lauren points out that free time is precious, in that it offers a
special opportunity to follow pursuits that make life richer,
including personal exploration or development. But who has time for
these pursuits? "Most people would be embarrassed to admit how many
hours they waste on technology," she said, calling it the "ultimate
distraction" and a "thief of intimacy." The result is that people
often are too busy surfing the Web, returning e-mails and the like, to
be truly present in their relationships. The thriving Internet porn
industry provides an extreme example of how this is so. "The anonymous
nature of Internet porn allows people to let their dark side run
amok," says Lauren. "It is a way for people to think they are happy in
their virtual world and to numb themselves to the disappointments they
experience in their real relationships."
But even those whose online activities are aboveboard fall prey to the
seductive qualities of online communication and social media. Texting
and e-mailing can be easy, straightforward and incredibly efficient
ways to communicate -- but doing so habitually means you end up only
skimming the surface of a relationship. There's no nuance of gesture,
eye contact, tone of voice or physical connection to tell you how
someone really feels. You get only a piece of the interaction, and
it's often the least important part.
Technology also is seductive in how it makes us feel so important and
desired. Responding to the buzz of your cell phone or that ding
announcing that a text message has arrived is -- momentarily, at least
-- far more gratifying then listening to your elderly mother complain
about her sore hip. But, of course, your eager response to the
distraction leaves mom feeling left behind and unimportant.
Occasionally emergencies really do require your attention, but when
such interruptions become a pattern in a relationship, problems are
likely to arise.
Be Here Now
Technology also can rob you of the joy of full engagement. If you're
taking a video of your grandson's first at-bat of the season, your
experience of the moment is restricted to the viewfinder -- forever.
Yes, you capture the moment so that you can enjoy it again and again.
But you'll miss lots, too -- like how your own son is puffed up with
pride (or anxiety), not to mention actually witnessing the richness of
your grandson's performance and relishing your own good feelings about
it. Wouldn't it be better to hand the camera to someone else so that
you can be fully present for what's happening, creating your own
memories that will make the experience all the richer?
Putting the Leash on Technology
Far too many people have fallen into the habit of constantly accepting
the siren call of communication tools and technology. To keep that
from happening -- or to stop the habit if you are already addicted --
requires setting rules, says Lauren. This will "put a leash on the
problem so technology serves you without stealing all of your life."
She has several simple suggestions...
Assess exactly how much time you are devoting to technology and for
what purposes. What is necessary, satisfying and life-enhancing...
what is just killing time? What more rewarding activities could you be
doing with that time instead? Lauren admits that she recently realized
that she was no longer reading books -- just e-mails, reports and
other online content. "Reading feeds creativity and imagination and
I've always loved it, but I hadn't read a single book in two years!
The problem wasn't how busy my children keep me. It was that I had
turned my free time over to my laptop -- doing e-mails and surfing the
Internet," she says.
Be mindful of what's really happening. Remember that your life is not
a photo album or a movie -- those are mementos, not the point. If
you're spending time with your family, turn off the technology and
Set limits on how and when you use technology -- and respect those
limits. Lauren calls this an issue of integrity. Technology can become
an addiction that makes it easy to avoid thinking about real
challenges, such as a troubled relationship or an unhappy work
situation. It provides a reason to avoid time with the person or
problem that might resolve the issue.
To restore balance, you might decide family meals are sacrosanct (no
phone interruptions allowed)... or leave all laptops at home when you
go on vacation... or take no text messages except when you are at work
-- what, when and how much is up to you and your family. What's
important, however, is that you stick to the limits you set... because
you value your real life most of all.
Lauren reminds us that when it comes to technology, we need to
remember who's the boss. You don't work for it -- it works for you.
Use your gadgets with this in mind, and they will indeed be useful and
Lauren Zander, life coach and founder, The Handel Group, www.handelgroup.com.
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