Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Attempting to Unplug: My Technology Addiction

Photo credit: kanate via
I am addicted to my phone. And to my other gadgets. It's taken me quite a while to actually admit this. I'm not a techie person. I don't jump to buy the latest gadget as soon as it comes out. I rarely ever pay for apps (I think I have purchased two? Maybe?). And yet, I find it ridiculously difficult to disconnect from my devices, mainly my computer and my smartphone. I already spend most of my time in front of a computer screen, thanks to the nature of my work. I cannot seem to bring myself to go anywhere without my cell phone. I feel lost and oddly useless without my computer in front of me at the end of the day, even if I would just be browsing Pinterest or watching something on Netflix.  I need to be stopped. What brought about this realization was two instances over the past week.

First was when I made an effort to actually work out for the first time in months after a long day at work last week. I've practiced yoga off and on for a while now (more 'off' than 'on' if I'm being honest and "practice" might not be the right word, but it's the only one I've got). I've always enjoyed it because it's not hard on joints, helps me slow down, and most of all, it tends to help me disconnect from the stress of the day, even if it's just for a little while. That night last week, as I attempted to relax into Shavasana, trying to get myself to let go of the worries of the day, I noticed that I kept reaching for my phone. Unconsciously at first, but like an annoying itch the longer I thought about it. I refused to give in and made it through to the end without checking my phone. It bothered me that I felt so accomplished.

The second occasion was a couple nights ago. I was volunteering after work and, instead of using one of the lockers provided, I'd opted to leave all of my belongings in my car, including my cell phone. I was there a little bit early, so I spent twenty minutes sitting in a room without my cell phone. I'm ashamed to say that it felt like the longest twenty minutes I've ever experienced. I almost (almost!) went out to my car to get my phone but, yet again, refused to give in to the urge and left it there.

Being so attached to them mystified me. I'm not a hugely popular person. I don't get numerous or frequent messages. I'm not waiting on calls from clients. My work email isn't even connected to my phone. My homework doesn't take me an inordinate amount of time each night. And even while I frequently take work home, it is never enough to fill all the hours that I spend "plugged in" as it were.  The longer I thought about it, the more two reasons stood out to me:

  • My technology creates a false sense of interaction: I feel more connected to my friends and family when I have access to my gadgets because scrolling through social media feeds, I feel like I'm still part of their lives. This is especially handy when many friends and family live far away. But it also can act as a deterrent to actually reaching out an engaging with them. I realized a few weeks ago how disconnected I'd become from some very important people to me and I had to acknowledge that by not reaching out, but instead "interacting" in a passive way, I was losing the connection I'd always valued so highly. 
  • I have an aversion to stillness: From what I can tell, this problem isn't mine alone. This is an issue I'm seeing more and more. We as a culture seem to have this problem with not being busy. Cleanliness is no longer next to godliness, now busy-ness is the next highest virtue. If someone has free time on their hands, they must be wasting it. We work ourselves to death, stressing out, never knowing a moment's peace because if we work hard all the time it must mean that we're doing our best and working the hardest. Instead, we lose sight of things that matter and end up miserable in our existence, running from one thing to the next, just perpetuating the rat race so many of us profess to hate. What would happen if I just attempted to do nothing. For even 15 minutes? 

As I type this (yes, on my computer), my phone is turned off for the first time in three days. It's been off for almost two hours and I've reached to turn it on three times before stopping myself short. I can't really unplug completely and I don't think I would ever truly want to. But I want to start making effort to be more conscientious about how much time I spend in front of these numerous screens and even be more aware of how I utilize the time in front of them.
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