I’d like to introduce you to my faithful pal, “i”; he’s very good at keeping me connected. I rely on him tremendously and find it hard to believe there was ever life without him. I spend more time with him than anyone else. When I ask my husband, “Where is ‘i’”?, he knows I am not losing my grammatical skills or waxing philosophical. It means I’m looking for my 4.25″ x 2.25” constant companion. “i” is how I endearingly refer to my iPhone. He’s here with me now.
As much as I ♥ “i,” I’m feeling a bit on information overload at the moment. At our fingertips 24/7, there are beeps, vibrations, and visual notifications that there is something new awaiting our attention. There are numerous conduits of the information—iPhones, Droids, Blackberrys, iPads, and PCs. There are many ways to transmit the information—email, texting, and blogging. And, there are several social media platforms to engage with, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
I’m all for technology, but at what point does it start to take over our lives? Do you find yourself on vacation trying to get just the right photo to post on your Facebook page instead of truly savoring the moment? Do you text (or worse—answer your cell phone!) when you are spending time with a friend or spouse? Do you spend hours on email, taking away time from loved ones? Somehow it seems like it’s no longer enough to simply “love the one we’re with.”
I have one friend who spends miles on his runs crafting witty Facebook status updates. I have another friend who gave up Twitter for Lent. As I’m writing this blog, a friend of mine is spending the day with her boyfriend. In the past four hours she has posted 10 times on Facebook. There were eight check-ins and two photos. I know exactly where my friend was on her date today—where they ate, where they hiked, and what bridge they took to get there.
The technological clutter in our lives can be just as damaging to our health as the physical clutter. It can take away from time that could be spent with others and it puts us on overload, compromising the serenity in our lives. What is your technological drug of choice? Is it posting frequently on Facebook, texting constantly, or perusing YouTube?
I have to be honest with you. Let’s come clean to each other and face our technological addictions together. Throughout the writing of this blog, I have deleted 54 emails and sent 23. Each time I get a new email, I get a visual notification at the bottom of my screen that lures me away from the task at hand. I wonder how much faster this article could have been written if I just turn the notification off and check my emails when I’m done.
I’m not asking you (or myself!) to quit cold turkey, but are there one or two changes you can make to help quiet your mind and nurture quality relationships? Here are some ideas.
- For personal emails, are there distribution lists you can unsubscribe to? Do you really need the daily coupons and marketing announcements from stores or numerous notifications of travel deals? Oftentimes, you have been added to a list without your knowledge. At the bottom of most mass emails, there is an “unsubscribe” link that you can click on.
- For work emails, can you ask not to be cc:ed on communications you don’t need to be? Oftentimes there is a way to have emails go to a certain folder. Perhaps all newsletters can go straight to a newsletter folder for you to read when you have time. If there is a question that can be asked in person or over the phone, try that for communication so that you don’t end up going back and forth in numerous emails.
- Do us all a favor, if you get a chain email, don’t forward it to your entire email distribution list. Use discretion on when and to whom you forward it. Make sure it’s really funny, poignant, or important. If it’s not, take one for humankind and delete it from cyberspace.
- Silence the notification on your cell phone and computer so that you aren’t tempted with every email or Facebook update you get. (Yes, I’m talking to myself on this one.)
- When you are with others, leave your cell phone ringer off and put it in your purse or pocket. Make it a table for two, not three. Resist the temptation to do a quick text or answer the phone unless it’s an emergency. When someone takes a call or sends a text when spending time with me, it makes me feel like the person I am with is not present with me. If you are with me, be with me. The others can wait.
- If you have summer vacation plans, how about leaving your technology friends out of the suitcase? You don’t even have to be on vacation to give it a try. With the beautiful weather, try spending the day outside with your family, leaving your iPhone at home.
- Ask yourself why you feel the need to be so tied to your _____ (fill in the blank). Is it filling a void? Is it giving you something you are not otherwise getting in your relationships? Are you bored? Is it a compulsion (i.e. the need to have an empty in-box)? Spending some time really thinking about why you are doing it could actually lead to some personal insights.
When your connection with technology is coming from a healthy place and there is balance, that’s great. I am a big fan of technology and social media. Facebook has allowed me not only to reconnect with many old friends, but also to keep up with my current friends. I’ve seen the power of LinkedIn firsthand, with a friend of mine recently getting a job through one of my connections. This is not about technology or social media bashing. It’s about finding the balance.
When technological time savers begin over your mind and/or infringes on time with your loved ones, it’s time for an intervention. Last night, I was rubbing my husband’s head with one hand as he fell asleep because he was feeling stressed. With the other hand, I was emailing. That’s when it hit me that maybe I needed to set some boundary limits with “i.”
Do you need to set some boundaries with your technology friends to foster health in your life?