I think most of us have a love-hate relationship with technology and its profusion of information - ok, admittedly some of you will no doubt say it's only a love relationship. But the truth of the matter is we are increasingly dependent on our gadgets! And, unknowingly, some of us may have even become, dare I say, addicted, or perhaps we are heading in that direction.
Some studies suggest that excessive dependence on cellphones and the Internet is akin to an addiction. Web sites such as NetAddiction offer self-assessment tests to determine if technology has become a drug. Among the questions used to identify those at risk:
- Do you neglect work to spend more time online?
- Are you frequently checking your e-mail?
- Do you often lose sleep because you log in late at night?
If you answered "often" or "always," technology may be taking a toll on you. It may be going too far to call it an addiction, says Nicki Dowling, a clinical psychologist who led the study; Ms. Dowling prefers to call this "Internet dependence."
Over the past five years, our technology has exploded rapidly! And we are like kids in a toy store, running to the latest and greatest product! In an eye blink, it seems, we have a new language and a faster way to live and connect in our world.
My initial introduction to the new technology was a Palm Pilot, a gift from my family when I graduated as a Feng Shui consultant in 1997. I loved it! Shortly afterward I bought a used PC. Then, of course, came my first cell phone. Well, we've come along way, baby! Iphone, Ipod, Imac, Itunes, I, I, I! The "I" generation, is, perhaps, a natural evolution from the "Me" generation. Come to find out, Larry D. Rosen has been writing about these generational evolutions. His latest book is featured in the sidebar.
Rosen says,"My colleagues and I feel that this new generation encompasses those children and teens born in the new millennium and are defined by their technology and media use, their love of electronic communication, and their need to multitask."
No question, cellphones and computers have transformed our lives. They allow us to escape our cubicles and work anywhere. They shrink distances and handle countless mundane tasks, freeing up time for more exciting pursuits. So what exciting pursuits has your free time allowed you to pursue?
Since that summer of 2007, I found myself spending increasingly more time on my computer - checking emails, searching the web, going on facebook, texting, blogging, writing articles, creating power point presentations, taking online courses and, of course, writing my monthly newsletter. I was in the flow of this technology, and while admittedly not as much as some, it insidiously began to consume the better part of every week day.
When I traveled to Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan in 2002, a friend of mine asked if I would email while away. I was aghast at the question. Of course there would be no way to do that in those places and why would I want to anyway, I retorted! "My intention is to get away and immerse myself in the culture!" Well, needless to say, the laugh was on me! It never occurred to me that there would be business centers providing internet access in almost every hotel we stayed in! That experience marked the end of my naive thinking that somewhere in the world communication with the ouside world was limited, if not primitive. Of course, that was in 2002. Our world of connection looks very different today than a decade ago!
Even four years ago, people were consuming three times as much information each day as they did in 1960. And their attention is constantly shifting. New research shows computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour. For better or worse, the consumption of media, as varied as e-mail and TV, has exploded.
Nonstop interactivity is one of the most significant shifts ever in the human environment, said Adam Gazzaley, neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. Over time, this slowly interferes with our creativity and deep thought. Juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how we think and behave.
Our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.
While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, and they experience more stress as well, scientists say.
"We fill our day with activities that overwhelm our capacity to handle them."
Even even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers. According to Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world's leading brain scientists, "The technology is rewiring our brains."
This rewiring process has caused us to become an impatient and results-oriented culture. Without awareness, our expectations for immediate results have speeded up. Think about both your thoughts and your body's response to being put on hold when trying to reach someone by phone, standing in line at a store, or when stuck in traffic.
Everyone I know complains about the number of emails they receive, myself included. Those fabulous online courses I began to insatiably take this past year, all intended to raise consciousness, led to more online courses and, of course (pun intended), the number of emails I continue to receive as a result have multiplied exponentially. While the information is powerful, when is enough enough? When do we recognize that our personal information highway is becoming jammed?
This past year, I began to notice some irritability when I was at the computer for hours at a time. This was new. Next, I began to experience upper shoulder and neck pain the longer I was on my computer. I mentioned this to my homeopath, who suggested, out of sincere concern, that I take at least a 20 minute break from the computer for every 90 minutes spent there. This was good advice for me as I tend to get focused when I am writing and can go for hours without a break. Foolish, of course, but true. Her admonition helped with my shoulder/neck pain. And when I forget to take that break, my body gives me a not-so-gentle reminder.
But when all is said and done, these new developments were giving me a deeper message, which I was ignoring.
That message increased dramatically for me in an interesting way this past March. When I returned home from Texas after being with my Mom when she passed, I found it difficult to be on my computer for any activity. I understood I was in mourning and attributed it to that. However, as the months have passed, this feeling has increased rather than decreased. I began to realize more is at work here.
My Father was very wise. As children, my sister and I grew up hearing many of his philosophies of life. One of his mantras was, "Everything in moderation." I think the Feng Shui equivilent to my Father's astute words is "Everything in balance." How easy it is to get out of balance! This message is coming in loud and clear now and I am finally paying attention.
Quiana's "technology fast" struck a chord, long before I was consciously aware of it. I am ready to follow her lead. July will be the month I go on a "technology diet." My weekly diet will consist of several days of outright fasting from email consumption and social; on the other days, I will reduce my intake. I will unsubscribe from superfluous communication and refrain from enrolling in personal development courses online. As part of this diet, I plan to abstain from writing this newsletter. I will take time to simply just "be," without the intrusion of technology.
I will not forsake the telephone during my fast, so if you need to reach me give me a call. I look forward to resconnecting with you in August and sharing observations and insights about my special "diet."
In the meantime, enjoy the Yang of summer!
Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. ~ Sam Keen