“We never talk anymore. You just stare at that screen.”
“I’m staying in touch with my 1,393 friends. I like to know what is going on in their lives.”
“What is going on in my life? Any ideas?”
“Well, currently… you are ticked off with me.”
What is Technology Toxicity?
There is no denying it. I adore my iPhone 5S. Growing up, I was always the last one to go for the latest and greatest anything. We held onto our VCR for as long as possible before purchasing a DVD player. Even now my parents have a VHS/DVD combo. And, I am pretty sure CD players had been out for a decade or so before I got one.
Technology equals change – and, for a long time, I was simply not interested in changing. Change was evil. (Sometimes I still feel that way, but I’m improving! ~smile~) However, I married a man who loves change. Craves it, even. He does not have to have the newest toys on the market, but after he received an iPad as a gift, he suddenly gained a greater appreciation for Apple products. And thus, a desire to integrate computing technologies was born in the Viets’ household.
My iPhone keeps the world at my fingertips. In less than five minutes, I can send messages to people before I forget what I need to tell them, I can check up on friends on Facebook, check e-mail, check the weather, and make a “to do” list for the day. If I were trapped in a room with nothing but my phone, charger, and an outlet, I could easily entertain myself all day long. If I forget my phone when I go out to run errands, I feel lost. There is nothing to entertain me at stoplights! (Oh, the peril!) Perhaps I depend on my phone a bit too much?
With that being said, I define technology toxicity as “the state of being so dependent on gadgets and modern conveniences that being deprived of them causes anxiety, stress, fidgeting, and listlessness while triggering a simultaneous delay in production.” If my dishwasher went out today, I would probably be heavily burdened. My immediate response would be, “Somebody fix it!” Even though people have washed dishes by hand for many moons, I would feel a little overwhelmed at the thought of having to wash my dishes all by myself. Pathetic, I know. And if my phone died – well – I can’t even think about that. ~smile~
How Can I Guard Against Technology Toxicity?
If you think you are in danger of Technology Toxicity, here are three ways you can guard against it.
- Set limits for yourself and honor your commitment to those limits. If you deeply struggle with boundaries in this area, have a few friends hold you accountable. It is okay to play video games, peruse Facebook, and watch some TV; but, it is not okay to let those mediums rule your life. Decide how much time is right and stick to it. Sure it will be hard at first, but it will get easier and your life will open up!
- Get in the habit of asking yourself, “In ten years, will I be glad I spent my time this way or will I wish I had done something else?” Ten years from now, I will probably be glad I did the dishes. So, my obsessive use of the dishwasher may not be a grave concern. However, in ten years I will probably wish I had spent less time watching television (my personal weakness) and more time staying in touch with family and friends.
- Determine within yourself to choose relationships over technology as a general rule of thumb. This is easier for some than others. For those of us that find too much human interaction exhausting, computers, smartphones, TVs, and gaming consoles provide a nice break from that chatter. But the danger with these escapes is that it becomes easier and easier to choose them over people. Enjoy your technology, but keep a proper perspective. Your friends and family offer you something no inanimate object ever will – love, support, and emotional connection.
If you believe you are suffering from Technology Toxicity, consider taking the following steps to cleanse yourself.
- Take a week off. Yes, an entire week. If your weakness is the TV, keep it off for a week. Call friends. Read books. Learn a new skill. Do something with that time that proves how much good can be accomplished in all those hours you typically spend staring at a screen (super convicting for me!). If your weakness is your phone, use it only for communicating with people when needed. Instead of texting, give them a call. ~smile~ (I know. I just cringed too.)
- After taking a week off, slowly introduce your weak spot back into your life, but under strict orders. One show a night, or only on the weekends, etc. Have accountability for this time. While you are slowly reintroducing your greatest weakness, take a week off from something else you depend on too greatly. Perhaps your video game system? iPad? Kindle? After you see that life goes on without your beloved distractions, you can start using them again – in moderation.
- After cleansing your mind and adopting healthier connections with your gadgets, hold your relationships as sacred. This means when you are at dinner, spending time with friends, talking to a loved one, and engaging in all forms of human connection, you stay off of your phone, iPad, gaming system, and the like. The only time you would not honor this commitment is when you are enjoying your technology with others. The focus being on them and not on the device.
This cleanse provides some time to refocus your mind and rethink your priorities. Believe me, I am preaching to myself as well! I sincerely hope you are able to spend more time connecting with your sweetheart and those you love as a result!
Ten Years after your Technology Cleanse
“Dear Former Self,
How have you been? You beat level sixteen, finally? Good job! How does it feel? Let me guess. You felt great for about an hour and then you needed to conquer something else? Did you keep playing or did you go for a run? Remember how you used to enjoy running? Better yet, did you call Mom? I know, sometimes she worries too much and nags you about staying healthy and getting a good education, but she loves you. You should call her.
How is your girlfriend doing? If she has been a little testy lately, I can give you a few pointers. First of all, she may be a little put off that you’ve cancelled your last two dates. Why did you do that again? Oh yeah, level sixteen was a bear. I remember. Secondly, she probably wants you to look her in the eyes when you take her out. Girls like romantic stuff like eye contact and their men seeming generally interested in what they have to say. Annoying as it may seem now, it’s good. Someday you will want to talk to her and you’ll want her to pay attention to you too. It’s called “a relationship.” Put the phone down and look at her! And last, but not least, go outside! Take her on a picnic, go for a run together, or just sit outside and enjoy the sunshine or stars together. She will never thrive if she is always playing second fiddle to your latest and best toys.
How have you been sleeping? Not too well? That’s a shame. You need your rest so you can succeed in life. Sleep is not just a good idea – it is pretty much essential to life, dude. Turn off the game, give your phone the night off, and enjoy some much needed slumber. You’ll wow the world with your mental clarity and clear eyes!
Ten years ago, I decided to take some time away from all my beloved technology and it made such a difference in my world. Suddenly, I was having more meaningful conversations. I was making new friends. I was laughing more. I realize that my girlfriend was not just a great girl to know, but my best friend. I married her, by the way, so you can look forward to that. ~wink~ After finishing my technology cleanse, I started using my gadgets more responsibly. Don’t wait. Get your priorities in order now so you don’t miss out on any more of life. There is so much out there you are missing. Level seventeen will be there tomorrow (or whenever you get back to it). Go love your life!
See you sooner than you think! The next ten years of your life are going to be so full!
An Older and Wiser You”
Would you and your sweetie benefit from a technology cleanse?