Science & Tech, World

Technology Psychology: Is Tech-Dependence a New Disease or a New Requirement?

In my lifetime I’ve seen technology morph our world. The use of technology is evident in most everything we do and it’s slowly offering alternatives to hands-on experiences. It’s a part of our amazing global connection and it’s allowing us to do extraordinary things in ways that were not possible before.

While technology is growing and advancing the way we learn, work, and live, we should be mindful of its power and realize that it’s not the only tool at our disposal. Technology cannot replace real life experiences, but rather it can enhance and add value to those experiences.

Is there such a thing as technology dependence? The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction thinks so. According to Dr. David Greenfield, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at University of CT School of Medicine, technology addiction not only occurs, it occurs enough to warrant a center dedicated to its treatment.

“Abusing and sometimes compulsively using our smartphones can be a real problem. It can lead to a marked reduction in real-time social interaction as our capacity and desire for regular face-to-face conversation decreases.” – Dr. David Greenfield

The Phantom Expectation

Is it really necessary to take your smartphone to bed with you? Or check your work emails at 10pm at night when your work day is 9-5? This is a requirement we are putting on ourselves. When we over-connect we set a precedent, and so many people are taking part that it is slowly becoming an expectation. If you are exhausted and relating to this situation, realize that the expectation is unspoken, and you can take back control. We all need balance in our lives and building a tech/life balance will help you get the most out of your technology use.

Real life, tech-free, social interactions are still important. While technology is allowing us to accomplish many things in a virtual world, we are still physical, social creatures that need human interaction. Things like spending tech-free time with friends and family, and having face-to-face meetings with networking contacts are character building, heathy experiences that should not be dismissed. The virtual world cannot replace a respectful handshake or a stimulating face-to-face conversation.

Tech Addicts Annonymous

Are we addicted to technology? It may not seem like a big issue. It’s so much fun to joke about how our smartphones are our life lines. Without them we would be lost, but would we really? At the end of the day, when it’s time to settle down, can we put the tech away? If you have trouble letting go of tech during your down time, or have small bouts of PTSD if you forget or misplace your phone, you may consider the possibility of being tech dependent.

We put this demand on ourselves to stay connected 24/7 to remain efficient and in the loop, but it may be causing more harm than good. The symptoms of technology dependence can become severe enough to interfere with normal daily activities. The psychological symptoms of technology addiction are parallel to any other form of addiction and can include irresistible urges to check your phone, the inability to control your behaviour towards technology, and fear of missing out when not connected. Physically, you may be at risk for uneven blood pressure and an overstimulated nervous system that contributes to sleep disturbances and constant fatigue.

Technology shouldn’t control you; you should be in control of technology. If you feel that you do not have a healthy relationship with technology, it may be time to take a step back and ask yourself a few eye opening questions.

How much am I using technology?

Do I take regular breaks from technology?

How am I affected when technology isn’t available?

Building Your Tech Boundaries

Has your smartphone become a drug? There’s an app for that! It’s called BreakFree, and it monitors your smart device usage and alerts you when you are using your device to excess. The idea behind this app is that most of us aren’t even aware of how much we are using our smart devices. BreakFree keeps you mindful and aware. Be proactive about your extended use of technology. Stay in control by setting simple commitments and personal rules to avoid the potential harmful effects of tech overuse.

Take Regular Time Off: Be sure to take full rest days from technology. Leave the tech behind and get outside to experience real life. Satisfy your inner needs to socialize with real people and have real time experiences outside the virtual world.

Set Limits: Limit the use of tech during personal time. Set easy rules like no tech at the dinner table, or no tech while watching a movie with family or friends. If you have a work cell phone, or a job that requires remote access to get things done, set limits as to when you connect after hours. Set the precedent that your personal time is yours, it’s valuable, and it must be respected.

No Tech in Bed: Try to leave all technology outside the bedroom. Aside from having a phone within an earshot in case of an emergency, there is nothing happening overnight that is more important than a full night of restful sleep.

Respect Your Face-to-Face Social Interactions: When out with family, friends, or colleagues, make it a habit to put the phone away. Regardless of what others are doing, show your respect by not being on your device during an in-person social event.

We have seen what technology can do. It is one tool at our disposal that complements our learning, work, and life experiences. Technology is a requirement, but you are not required to be at its beck and call 24/7. Embrace the many marvels of technology, but remain in control, and mindful of how and when you connect. Technology can either fit into your life, or it can run your life. Technically, the choice is yours.