As technology creeps into almost every aspect of our lives, people are finding themselves “connected” more often than not.
Pew Research’s latest reports detail how often teens and adults find themselves online, adding for the first time to the survey the “almost constantly” connected option.
This is both awesome and distressing. While digital innovation has endowed the human race with amazing abilities, we also have to wonder at what cost does our constant fixation with technology come?
The Cost of Constant Connection
The good news is that there haven’t been any huge adverse health effects related to essentially having a digital umbilical cord. Nevertheless, there are certain negative minor behaviors that can arise from constant tech-use. A 2014 study, for example, found that when people used cell phones they were less likely to be “prosocial,” meaning less likely to show concern for others or to be outgoing.
The glaring paradox here is that being constantly “connected” all of the time can actually undermine a person’s ability to truly connect with others. Another interesting find, stemming from Facebook’s controversial mood manipulation experiment, is that being bombarded by negative content on social media or news sites will actually make a person more likely to be negative themselves.
Nevertheless, the digital march continues. Stopping the disruption will be met with the efficacy of Luddites because it is the majority of us who are leading that change. Constituents are urging government leaders and students urging universities to embrace digital change, meaning that the fabric of our society will be woven with tech from here on out.
Recognizing that balance is key is the first step to managing just how connected you are, and will be proven important in achieving and maintaining an optimally moderated, technology-driven life. In other words, you’d do well to realize that powering down sometimes is a good thing.
Finding Balance by Powering Down
Obviously, we’ve passed the point of no return. Tech is integral to our society. Still, stepping away from your devices every once in awhile can actually surprise you with unexpected benefits, and might even make you a little more productive:
- Screens change the way we think. Research has shown that using screens to absorb and process information changes the way that we actually perceive it. Writing down notes with a pencil, for example, can help cultivate deeper learning and conceptual understanding of topics and may help you retain it longer vs. writing with a keyboard and screen. This all comes down to how we physically process information when creating it. Try carrying a small notebook and pencil with you to jot down thoughts every once in awhile, or maybe during your next meeting bust out the legal pad and take your notes the old-fashioned, “analog” way. Your brain will thank you for it.
- Disconnecting can make you more creative. While screens have become the natural “viewport” into other worlds, the exchange of information between you and it is very one-sided. Sure, you spend time coming up with emails, maybe taking neat pictures every once in awhile, but the majority of your time spent connected to your device is used to consume information. Close your news apps, quit scrolling through your Facebook feed, and watch your creativity soar.
- There’s a whole world around you, and you’re missing out on it. This is the one that you’ve heard the older generation crowing about since the advent of the television, but it turns out they may have had it right to a degree. Nothing beats a face-to-face conversation, as many social cues get lost in audio-translation, not to mention that constant connection can lead to dangerous distractions, especially while driving.
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Strategies for Balance
Of course, it’s near impossible to disconnect completely, and even if it were, who would want to? Our ability to garner information from the cloud, conduct video calls and chats with one another and tap news sources in real time have proved a valuable commodity.
We’ve even changed business and social etiquette to fit better around electronics and constant connection. Nobody wants to get rid of these. Nevertheless, as mother always said, moderation is key. Spend 15 minutes a day disconnected, doing nothing, and focusing on mindfulness. Bust out the legal pad and take “analog” notes during your next board meeting. You may be surprised at the results.