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Submitted by Liz Elam on Tue, 2010-09-21 09:04
What are the three things no one leaves home without?
- Wallet or Purse (or Murse)
Your smartphone is most likely the first thing you check when you wake up in the morning. And with over half of Americans now using their cell phone as their primary alarm clock, your phone is probably the last thing you put down before going to bed.
Consider this: your phone is either in your pocket or within arm’s reach 24 hours a day - even when you’re sleeping!
Back in 1998 (before most mainstream Americans owned a cell phone), authors Michelle Weil and Larry Rosen were already examining the frustration caused by technology in our society in their book called "TechnoStress: Coping with Technology"
"Because technology lets us do so much, today we take on too much and end up feeling overwhelmed and never finished. We feel invaded by technology on all fronts, by the beeps of our pagers, cell phones, incoming faxes and those of others around us. We tote our laptops on vacation and our bosses expect us to carry sky pagers. Our personal and work boundaries are blurred and we never feel true "down time" any more."
That was back in 1998! Before Google, YouTube and Facebook. Before iPhones, iPads and iPods. If these experts thought the world was having problems coping with technology and the fast-paced flow of digital information twelve years ago, what would they think about our tech-addled society in 2010?
There’s no doubt that the pace of information we consume is only going to increase. We used to only be digitally connected for part of the day, via laptop or desktop. Now we all carry around pocket-sized devices that are constantly beeping, ringing and vibrating with bite-sized updates.
Most people work best when they are not constantly interrupted. Imagine sitting at your desk, totally focused on completing a project; but every ten minutes, someone tapped you on the shoulder to hand over a note card with a tidbit of information. Not only would it interupt the zen of your workflow, it would get real annoying. Yet most people don’t think twice about halting their workflow whenever they get a new text, email or tweet. This is madness.
In theory, technology should be enhancing our personal relationships and allowing us to keep in closer contact with friends and family than ever before. But for easily distracted people who have trouble limiting their social media use, Facebook and Twitter can turn days, nights and weekends into digital quicksand.
Instead of bringing us closer together, our “always-connected” culture actually encourages people to spend more time alone, on their computers, rather than with others. The number of hours people spend interacting face-to-face has fallen dramatically since 1987 as electronic media use has risen.
We need to be proactive and consciously plan extended breaks from technology, multiple times a day. It’s pretty simple to explain, but tough to execute for the always-connected technophile.
A recent study by the University of Maryland shows just how difficult it is for people to “unplug” from our always-connected world:
- College students are "addicted" to the instant connections and information that social networking offers, according to a new study done at the University of Maryland.
- According to researchers, students who described their feelings when they were not allowed to utilize social networking used the same terms associated with drug and alcohol addiction withdrawal: frantically craving, very anxious, extremely antsy, miserable, jittery, and crazy.
- The Maryland study found that most students were not just reluctant to go without their media links to the world. They were physically unable.
So what’s the solution? How do we ‘unplug’ and take a break from the tsunami of data we are continuously bombarded with 24/7?
We need to be proactive about finding a balance within the information stream. We need to schedule time away from our gadgets and gizmos. I’m not going to lecture you on the benefits of exercise, but make sure you schedule time each day to step outside, get some fresh air, and interact with your fellow human beings in the analog world.
Just like your body needs nourishment from vegetables, fruits and whole grains, your brain needs nourishment from books, essays and intellectual discourse. Feeding your brain with text messages, emails and 140 character tweets is like feeding your body with a steady diet of jelly beans, popcorn and sour patch kids. It might satisfy a short-term craving, but ultimately leaves us mentally malnourished.
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