I received a wonderful present over the holidays and it didn’t come from a store or wrapped in a glittery box. We lost power. No TV, no phone, no Internet. Instead of feeling deprived, my family had our best vacation. We read, talked, and played outside together. We had just settled in to playing Scrabble by candlelight when the power came back on, and I remember feeling so disappointed. It got me to thinking about how much technology has crept into our lives.
There are definitely some advantages to being connected. Work can become more flexible, even working from home, and the work we can is more productive and less redundant. We use email and Facebook to keep in touch with the important people in our lives, and texting lets us stay connected to our kids without being intrusive when they are out and about. Events can be communicated in real time, which brings us together to share a moment.
But there are also real concerns over the impact of technology in our lives. A new form of addiction has arisen — the need to be constantly engaged in lives outside our own. Checking email or Facebook has been likened to playing the slots in Las Vegas, always feeling the need for one more little hit.
For the first time, researchers are seeing a significant decrease in creativity among children. Adults may experience the loss of deep thinking. The constant interruptions and multi-tasking lead to weakened concentration and shallower thinking. We never stop multitasking to reflect on our lives.
Technology may increase, not decrease your stress level. A constant stream of current news highlights horrific events, so they feel closer to home than ever. Frequent exposure to events played over and over on TV, Facebook and Twitter provoke mood changes, and aggravate anxiety, sadness and depression.
Technology changes our relationships. It’s easier to turn to the screen in challenging moments rather than deal with the current situation. A screen can teach children, but it can also occupy too much of their time, distract from creative play, and cause children to look outside of themselves for happiness or distraction. Our online relationships can bring people together but they also offer the illusion of companionship without demands of friendship. When we are constantly texting, we lose our conversation skills.
We don’t yet know the full impact of EMF and blue light from screens which may cause damage to our eyes. Having a screen on can have an effect on melatonin which causes sleep issues. The dangers of EMF exposure may be an increased risk of cancer.
And equally important, technology takes up time in the day, more and more all the time, time that could be used for thinking, cooking, relaxing, and meditation. In other words, life.
While it’s not possible to avoid technology, we can limit our interaction to high quality connections. We can set boundaries to its presence in our lives. It’s a good idea to have a digital detox from time to time, at least one day a week, or longer if possible.
Moderation is good but it cannot achieve the same kind of biologic rebalancing that a fast can. We can schedule certain times in our day to check emails and we can set rules for technology free zones (kitchen, dinner table, etc.).
According to Victoria Dunckley, M.D, psychiatrist, you may start to notice:
- Brighter, more relaxed mood
- Increased creativity
- Improved eye contact and verbal conversation
- Enhanced empathy
- Improved sleep
- Fewer headaches
- Less stress and more healing
After our experience over the holidays, my family’s New Year’s Resolution is to take a technology fast every week, set daily limits on connectivity, and add technology free zones to our home. Unplugging has become my gift to myself and my family for the coming year.
Want to learn more? Sabbath Manifesto offers suggestions on how to slow down in increasingly fast-paced world: www.sabbathmanifesto.org
Listen to Amber Case’s TED Talk: “We are all cyborgs now.”
Listen to Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk: “Connected but, alone?“