5 Ways to Keep Technology in Its Place
by Aaron Earls
There are great benefits we can draw from technological advances in general and social media in particular, but we fool ourselves if we think they don’t also bring significant dangers.
Numerous studies explain the significant effects the Internet and smartphones are having on us. In some subtle, but very real ways, they are rewiring our brains and impacting our physical health.
Yet many of us feel unable to disconnect. What would we do if we didn’t have our phone within arm’s reach?
I know this temptation full well. It would be extremely difficult for me to go through a complete digital detox, not only because digital media is part of my job, but because it is part of the way I live my life now.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take steps to foster a more healthy use of technology. While it may be a part of everyday life, it does not have to be part of your life every day (not to mention every minute).
If we are not careful, we will miss the point when technology has become a barrier to—and not a tool for—human connectivity and personal relationships.
Here are five steps to help you avoid living your life completely behind a screen.
1. Make and keep eye contact.
It can be as simple as that. Looking someone in the eyes (and not at your phone) helps them know you are engaged in what they are saying, not waiting for a text message or a tweet.
2. Establish technology free days.
Sometimes, for your sake and the sake of your family, you just need to turn everything off. No video games. No TV. No smartphones or laptops. Instead, go to the park, read a book, or play a board game with the family.
3. Set hours when the phone is off.
If there is a legitimate reason why you cannot turn your phone off, turn the ringer off or use the Do Not Disturb Mode. That way you can be reached in an emergency, but otherwise the phone stays quiet.
4. Don’t get defensive.
Give your loved ones permission to tell you to put your phone away. But not just permission—permission to do it and you not get angry. When you get defensive, you basically are admitting you have a problem.
5. Humble yourself.
Often times, our need to “stay connected” stems from an over-inflated sense of our self-worth. We don’t believe others can function without us. Give them a chance. They may surprise you.
Where technology belongs
Technology can be great when it encourages and deepens the relationships we have with others. But when it serves as the primary way for us to engage those around us, it needs to be placed back within its proper boundaries.
We can use technology to create a false version of ourselves that always has the answer and never goes through problems. But that’s not healthy, and is destined to collapse.
Real life requires vulnerability and honesty within our community. Unchecked technology can serve as a buffer promising us we can have a safe life, but robbing us of the deep joy that comes with allowing those around us to see our pain and scars. Authenticity matters.
You can use technology—just make sure it never becomes the other way around.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor at Facts & Trends.