A good friend and I recently met for lunch to catch up on each other’s lives. While we made our ways through our greens and grains salad bowls, The topic of technology addiction came up and we discussed some insights into what’s it’s doing to our relationships and the way we function.
Our attachment to smartphones, iPads, apple watches, etc affects the way our brains are wired (there is research to back this up, of particular interest is the dopamine release mechanism each time our brain is stimulated by “an award” or “like”). But I don’t need scientific proof to know how I’m personally impacted when spending too much time checking email, facebook, Instagram or endless other distraction on my iPhone or iPad. It’s apparent in my attention span and the noticeable decline in the ability to focus on one thing, and one thing only.
In often find myself bouncing between tasks, checking work email while simultaneously watching the news, doing housework, or trying to having a conversation. This level of distractedness can take a toll on productivity and on relationships. Checking email, social media or news feeds a zillion times a day and multitasking like a maniac gives a nebulous sense of productivity and connection but it can also have the lingering affect of anxiety or restlessness.
It seems that the ability to focus completely on the present, otherwise known as “being in the moment” is becoming a lost art. The competitive nature of social media and encourages people to care more about documenting experiences over actually experiencing life in real-time.
The rise in news stories of people falling to their deaths while attempting to get the perfect selfie at scenic cliffs or waterfalls sadly illustrates this phenomenon.
Circling back to the start of this post, I’m happy to report that my friend and I enjoyed a lunch date free of technology interruption. Neither of us had our phones out and the conversation was relaxed and genuine. I left feeling centered and happy.
In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that upon returning to my my car, I took out my phone and checked for messages. Habits are hard to break and progress comes gradually. And to be honest, the ability to answer a work email, or check in on family members with a few keystrokes is a convenient way to stay on top of things.
It really comes down to moderation and having the discipline to “put down the phone”.
To help myself find better balance between technology and “the real world”, I’ve implemented some daily habits keep me focused, less anxious and in the present.
I try to start my day with meditation instead of grabbing my ipad and immediately checking email or news upon waking.
I’ve found that spending 15-20 minutes listening to a daily meditation (I subscribe to “Calm” and Deepak’s Chopra’s 21 day meditation challenge) puts me in a peaceful and focused state of mind.
When I do “plug in” I tend to be a news junkie and could spend hours bouncing from story to story. To counteract political overload, I balance my reading with less angst inducing material; travel features, exercise and healthy lifestyle, decorating ideas, etc.,
I also make it a point to “not” check for new messages every chance I get and opt instead to stay focused on whatever else I was doing before the “swoosh” so rudely interrupted.
I turn off the sound on my phone when I’m at work, in an appointment, at the gym or social commitment. Unless someone is in the hospital or I’m expecting an important call, it can wait. And my brain thanks me for it.
These are just a few ways I’ve found to keep myself from becoming too tethered to technology. There are so many conveniences and so many distractions – It’s really all about balance.
The yin and yang of the technology era.
So the next time you hear that swoosh, ask yourself if it can wait. Could be that what you’re doing in that moment is where you truly need to be.