Signs you’re addicted to technology [how-to unplug]

Think you have a problem?

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Check your messages, app notifications and social media? We live in a technology-saturated society that can do us harm if we don’t keep it in check.

Tech overuse permeates our society

Tech use has gotten so concerning that Congress has a $95 million proposal to study the effects of it on our children. To varying degrees, we’re all guilty of overextending ourselves with continual distractions related to smartphone use, social media, gaming and apps. Not to mention macular degeneration (leading to blindness), which can be exacerbated by blue light emitted from smartphones, laptops and tablet devices.

Unless we voluntarily unplug metaphorically and physically from time to time, we become overridden by around-the-clock angst and anxiety.

Teens and their parents admit it

The Pew Research Center just released a report this month, in which teens and their parents admit they have a problem with their own smartphone usage. 54% of US teens self-reported they spend too much time on their smartphones, and 36% of parents admitted that they themselves overuse devices. The top emotions that teens feel when without a cell phone tops the list with anxiety (42%) followed by loneliness (25%) and being upset (24%).

It’s becoming crystal clear that tech use often leads to constant distraction and lower quality interactions with people around us – family and friends.

Open-plan work myth busters

An Inc.com article published this past July summarized takeaways from a Harvard Study. In an open-plan workplace, people wear headphones and use productivity apps (Slack, Skype, Hangouts) in lieu of talking F2F. People choose to withdraw.

“Rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.”

What the research also relays to me is the growing interdependence of technology. When given the choice, it’s easier to default to tech use as the medium for communication.

Stuff of science fiction & dark comedies

Why do we get creeped out watching Black Mirror? Because it plays out dystopian scenarios that can feel, well, uncomfortably real.  When one of the happiest episodes is the Emmy-winning San Junipero [*spoiler alert*], perhaps that is because it reaches into the happiness imbued when two people authentically connect, transcending technology.

Then you have Nosedive from Black Mirror’s season 3, in which Bryce Dallas Howard’s character becomes obsessed with her social media ratings to the detriment of her social standing and sanity. A similar plot theme is taken up in the dark comedy Ingrid Goes West, starring Parks & Rec alum Aubrey Plaza. While these are exaggerations at best, they serve as cautionary tales of overexposure that can impact people’s psyche.

Take a break

Of the Western countries, France is considerably ahead in their stance on work-life balance. France’s government has made it a right for employees to unplug after work — the right to disconnect.

There are many compelling reasons to create a regular habit of unplugging and detoxing. It also encourages you to really connect with people and your loved ones.

Put away the iPhones and Android smartphones, turn off Netflix, power down your PS4 / Xbox, stop checking your Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts, and put your Kindle to sleep.

How-to unplug

Make it a healthy habit to unplug from time to time. Weekends are the best times to do so, especially when you have family. I make it a point to “do things” in my own way.

  • Put away your phone – temporarily put it aside and find your happy place.
  • Enjoy DIY projects (solo, or with the kids) – baking, cooking, craft projects
  • Explore the local scene – farmer’s market, events, nextdoor organized groups
  • Meditate and read books – solo or with friends. Enjoy that cup of coffee or tea
  • Spend time outdoors – walk, hike, or take a run.
  • Join a club or activity – book club, renew that gym membership, and explore group activities
  • Learn something new – Because you’ve been itching to try something new
  • Slow down – don’t always rush out the door. Take pleasure in doing things slowing.

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8 thoughts on “Signs you’re addicted to technology [how-to unplug]

  1. I often like to “forget” my phone at home. This gives me frequent breaks. I couple this with hobbies, exercise and verbal conversation as a means to get away from the “online” scene. Great post!

    1. Thank you! I love that idea of “forgetting the phone” and going out there to explore hobbies and exercise. I’ve got a renewed commitment to exercise, and I feel better, and less in a fog.

  2. There’s so much truth in this article. Very happy to read it. While I’m extremely tech-savvy I’m not tethered to my devices. I went about my day happily last week running errands and realized I left my iPhone and Apple Watch at home. As expected, I survived (and enjoyed the scenes wherever I went).

    1. That is fantastic! It’s a great feeling when you can truly “forget” about technology and enjoy the scenery around you. I have to take conscious steps to separate myself. I think back to the days when we didn’t have smartphones, the time of dial tones and an actual landline with an answering machine, and no social media. More time spent doing things and having time for more meaningful conversations.

      1. You’re so correct. Just imagine: no speed dial, no saved numbers, no three-way calling… Making a phone call on a rotary phone might take a full minute to dial back then. Society is so fast-paced right now that we miss things. While I love tech I can also appreciate those meaningful conversations. Something to relish.

  3. This is such a great article. When I started my web development job I was always on my phone and computer even when I left work and was home. I realized how isolated it made me and it did start to effect relationships around me. Learning to unplug has been one of the best disciplines I’ve have taught myself.

  4. Technology is such a double-edged sword….I found that a huge percentage of my clients who want me to design travel for them is based on a dee-seated need to reconnect with their spouse, their partner, or their kids!

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