The era of all-things-smart is here and life is becoming rapidly digitalized. Everything happens online, from shopping to finding jobs or the love of our life. Smartphones are more than an extension of our hands, they are becoming an extension of ourselves and we feel incomplete when we lose them or even when we run out of battery. For most of us, it’s been probably months or years since we willingly gave technology up for a whole day. Figures vary, but all of them show that we’re technology indulgent. For example, in 2014 we used to spend more time watching TV, typing, gaming or listening to a smart device than sleeping (Communication Market report by Ofcom, 2014). The numbers are even more worrying with young people as they are online for an average of 27 hours a week. In 2015, a typical American spent about eleven hours a day using a form of media (Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, 2015).
Technology makes our life more comfortable and more entertaining, but there are costs for having it all at our fingertips. Health is one such cost, as too much computer use correlates with musculoskeletal disease, vision problems, headaches, tiredness, as well as with certain mental health problems (stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression).
Another big expense is represented by our relationships. Some of us have hundreds or even thousands of social media friends but nobody to call when we’re down. We post happy pictures of our perfect life, but we cry ourselves to sleep. We feel popular, but we are, in fact, alone. Getting in touch with someone’s virtual persona does not truly connect you with them. Face to face contact is what helps, but it becomes a luxury in a busy world where everything happens online. In this context, what we miss out on really is life itself. A sunset, a smile from a dear friend, a cup of coffee at the same table, a hand shake or a hug are vital for the humanity in us. Technology is important and it makes life easier, but it shouldn’t replace it. If you suspect that your phone is stealing your life, here’s a list of things to try in order to regain control:
Be honest with yourself
People underestimate the time spent online, believing they spend half of the time they actually do, according to a study by Andrews, Ellis, Shaw & Piwek (2015). You can use technology to see how much of your time is spent in the world of web2.0 by downloading different apps that monitor your presence online, especially on the most time consuming ones, like social media platforms. This might sound funny, but it’s a first step to giving up and it’s a step taken on your current terms: the terms of a techy person.
Try to slowly decrease the time
Once you’ve decided to spend some time apart from your phone, it’s time to really go for it. It won’t be easy, especially if you are one of those people who wake up with their phone in their hand. Again, for the moment, you can try an app that blocks your access to the sites where you spend most of your time. Even if you don’t do it for a whole day, do it for at least one hour each day. It would still make a difference!
Replace the habit
Although it might not be a proper addiction in your case, it helps to replace bad habits with healthier ones. If you decided to cut down the number of hours spent online to 2 from 4, why not join the gym in those hours, chat to a friend or read a short-story? Technology gives us access to oceans of information, but it doesn’t necessarily make us smarter, and the old ways to expand our imagination and vocabulary, such as reading, still work well.
Make a bigger difference
Because relationships define us a ‘social animals’ before anything else, it is always worth nurturing and cultivating them. When you decide to spend time with your friends instead of your phone you invest in yourself, in them and in your relationship. On the other hand, you might find out that they struggle with the same problem and trying to work together on it can have a positive impact in your smaller or larger community. So, why not do something bigger and declare Sunday a ‘tech Sabbath’ day?
Do it yourself and also encourage others to leave their phones and go hiking, running, biking, sunbathing, swimming, writing poetry in the woods or just staring at the sky in the best company your body, mind and heart can have: your loved ones!
If you need support in balancing different sectors of your life, give us a call. We are happy to help you with time management, relationships, as well as with certain addictive or potentially addictive behaviours.
Andrews S, Ellis DA, Shaw H, Piwek L (2015) Beyond Self-Report: Tools to Compare Estimated and Real-World Smartphone Use. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0139004. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139004