Disclaimer: If you are in blissful denial that your tech use is out of control at any level, then this article will make you uncomfortable. It may even make you mad. You may want to skip this post and go play Candy Crush instead.
Professionals say the first step to dealing with, and overcoming any kind of addiction is to identify and admit you have a problem.
So, I’ll be the first one stand up in front of this vast digital room of possible addicts and confess.
Hi, my name is Toni and I am somewhat—okay entirely and rather euphorically—addicted to my tech. My drugs of choice: Twitter, Facebook, and Feedly.
I didn’t see it coming. It was a slow boil and the water was quite pleasant to be honest. It all started about five years ago. I used technology like most parents: to research my kids’ aches and pains, to shop, to learn new stuff, and to read reviews on what movies, music, and books to buy. And, of course, my job requires me to be online for a good portion of part of my day.
Then came Facebook and all those other fun social places to keep in touch with family and friends. At first my online time was just a few minutes here and there or a half an hour before bed. But slowly that turned into several hours a day. Often conversations with friends online, or surfing from site to interesting site—in a popcorn-like manner—soon sucked up hours of my day.
Somehow the lines became blurred and my preference for my gadgets (cell phone, iPad, laptop, and tablet) began to push out other activities (and people). Like my hobbies, exercising, going out on day trips, and spending time with family and friends.
Don’t misunderstand. I still do those things. I’m not a hermit . . . or a computer zombie. I just don’t do those things as much as I used to.
I guess I could keep going this way, after all, there aren’t any physical signs that this subtle imbalance is causing harm. And just look around: Everyone is doing it. My family seems to be fine; they look happy and content. But I know in my “mommy knower” that the harm can’t be seen on the outside because it’s swirling on the inside.
More and more we learn about the alarming physical effects excessive technology use can have on us emotionally and physically. But none of the reading and knowledge matters if we don’t stop, examine, and truly begin to make an effort to change.
I’m not asking you to go cold turkey and toss your tech—we all can agree that technology is both beneficial and essential today. The goal is balance. It’s been proven that small changes, done consistently over time, is the way to make positive changes stick.
So are you ready to do just that?
Here are 10 signs you might be addicted to your tech, parents, and some small changes to help restore balance:
1. You ask the person in front of you to wait so you can finish a text, watch a video, or read a post . . . and rarely notice when they walk off. Small change: Be present. Always put the real person before the digital one.
2. You spend a noticeable amount of time on family outings or vacations posting online or absorbed in your phone. Small change: Pack your phone in your suitcase or somewhere out of reach for two hours at a time. Gradually increase that amount. Enjoy the scenery and the people in it.
3. You text your kids rather than walk up the stairs to ask them something. Small change: Remind yourself that you are teaching your kids this detached way to communicate and that every text robs you both of one another.
4. You repeatedly end up online longer than you originally intended. Small change: Put a kitchen timer next to your computer. Set it and stick to the allotted amount of time.
5. You deny it (sometimes defensively) when another person makes a negative comment about how much time you spend online. Small change: Stop. Listen. Acknowledge. Ask yourself: “What if this is true?”
6. You believe you don’t need to go to a reunion, gathering, or celebration because you’ve already connected with those people or groups online. Small change: The next time you get an invitation, accept it. Write down all the peripheral conversations and new acquaintances that could never have happened otherwise. Note the emotional boost you received from the face-to-face interactions and your very real sense of connection.
7. You feel a physical and emotional urge to check in with your online community throughout the day. Small change: The next time this happens, put your phone away and replace the next 30 minutes with a physical activity, an undone chore, calling a friend, or reading a book. The urge to get online will eventually dissipate.
8. You surf, tweet, or post on your phone or computer during family movie time. Small change: Multi-tasking is quickly becoming acceptable but silently diluting our quality of life. Leave your gadget in another room and be fully present to enjoy this activity with your family. Model the joy—and relaxation—that comes from being fully present.
9. You find yourself overly involved, even stressed, about negative interactions or conflicts that have taken place online. Small change: Sometimes it’s necessary to block a negative person online or quit a social community if negatively impacts your outlook. Establish ground rules around your stress triggers. For instance: ‘I will not discuss politics, religion, sports, or my work online.’ Remind yourself that you have full control over your decision to log online or choose a healthier activity offline.
10. You feel isolated, out of the loop, even lonely if you are offline for more than a few days. Small change: Share your feelings with a trusted friend and ask for accountability. Periods of isolation or loneliness can turn into depression, so if needed, seek professional help. Getting the core of ‘why’ we engage in any kind of excessive behavior is how to change it for good.