Work-life balance is so 19th century. It’s all about the tech-life balance, what I am terming as the healthy balance between all our digital gadgets and the real world around us. I have noticed how much technology, and more specifically, our smartphones, have dramatically changed the way we interact with others and live our lives. In some ways, having a positive impact, but in many ways, a detrimental one. Millennials and Generation Z (aka the digital natives) have been surrounded by technology from a very young age. Kids these days probably have smart-enabled devices already in their rooms and cribs, before they enter this world.
But how is this technology affecting us? We now have powerful computers in our pockets, available whenever we need them. We can order a pizza, hail a cab, pay someone digitally, book a flight, translate languages on the fly, etc. All from our phone and with just a few taps of the finger. This must be a good thing, right? Well, having all of this technology affects each of us differently. The greatest challenge is, how do we limit ourselves and maintain a healthy balance. How do we stop it from transforming us into consumption zombies? With instant digital gratification, how do we stay excited in the real world, which moves slowly and isn’t nearly as convenient? These are the questions I’d like to answer.
The primary reason we have difficulty in limiting our screen time and resisting the urge to check our phones every 2-3 minutes, is that our apps are highly addictive. Apps are even strategically made with addiction in mind. And it’s that constant urge/need to look at the screen in your hand, which distracts you from all the wonderful things happening around you…in the real world. I have seen tables at restaurants with 3-4 people, all of which sat and stared at their phones for more than 20 minutes, without speaking a word to each other. I’ve seen couples on dates, where they sat, leaning forward, towards each other, with body language which appeared as though they were engaged, however, both were staring at their phones and their own Instagram/FB/Snapchat feeds and commenting to each other on different things they were viewing. We are all guilty of this to some degree…myself included. Our lives are busy and we try to get things done whenever and wherever we can. So it’s understandable that we have difficulty in separating ourselves from these devices, and controlling the urge. You need to train yourself to do that, much like managing an addiction.
Technology affects each of us differently. Some may experience a negative impact on their physical and mental health, while others may experience a negative impact on their relationships with their friends and family. Have you lost friends due to political or personal views posted on Facebook or Twitter? Does Facebook or Instagram give you that “keeping up with the Joneses” feeling, with everyone’s life looking so amazing and fun and drama-free? Well, even with all the many positive impacts technology brings, it’s also having quite a negative impact on society and mental health as a whole. But I believe there is a way to manage this, and it all comes down to our tech-life balance. Technology has exploded in the past 5 years, and we as a people, have not had enough time to adapt and learn how to manage this massive change.
It seems people are starting to take notice though. More and more people are starting to take action to be less “plugged in” (aka unplugged – a throwback to The Matrix), by going offline. Offline weekends are now a thing, where you put away your phone and digital devices, and go outside to explore. Walking the same street or going to the same places, but without your phone and digital devices to distract you. You’d be amazed by what you see, hear, and do.
So how do we go about regaining control? Where do we start? Well, I think it starts with getting control of our phones and how we use our phones. Think about how often you get a vibration from your phone or hear the ding of an SMS. I bet you immediately reach for your phone. Sometimes, you even reach for your phone when someone else’s phone rings, because you just want to check to make sure it wasn’t yours. That sounds like our phones control us, not the other way around.
There are some simple steps that can be taken to limit the interaction with our phones and other digital devices we own. These changes can help us achieve a healthy tech-life balance and overall improve our mental health and well-being. By making these changes, we can still take advantage of the great things technology brings, but not be controlled by them.
So, as I go down this road to digital freedom and a healthy tech-life balance, I’d like to take you along for the ride. I have made several changes recently, which has really helped me to gain back a bit of control and the impact has been amazing! I’d like to share the strategies I have deployed to achieve an improved tech-life balance, and I hope that they help you too!
Let’s avoid becoming consumption zombies together!