Are Your Tech Habits Taking Over?

Are Your Tech Habits Taking Over?

How to combat tech habits from taking over your well-being

We live in a time where the world is at our fingertips thanks to smartphones, tablets, and wifi available everywhere. There are, of course, benefits to this, but often it can feel like technology is taking over our lives or our loved ones. Have you ever been to dinner with a friend who can't seem to put down their phone? Or picked up your phone and next thing you know an hour as gone by? Has your device usage left you feeling down?

Our tech habits can keep us striving to connect with the world – through news, social media, or text messages. However, they often leave us feeling disconnected and more alone. Instead of being present in the moment, with ourselves or with others, we are turning to our technology too often. Here are some of the common challenges being attached to our technology has a negative impact on us, and how we can combat it.

Constant Distraction

Most of us constantly have our phone on us. We want to be able to be reachable, to be able to reach others, to get directions, and it’s a comfort. But with these little computers in our pockets, we can forget to unplug. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of checking your multiple social media accounts, scouring Pinterest for ideas on how to redecorate, responding to work emails from home, or planning a trip. We get caught in these cycles, and then we realize we’ve been lounging on the couch for a couple hours, our laundry still isn’t done, and we don’t know where the day went.

How to combat this tech habit:

Be mindful and be present in the moment. Pick a time to unplug – and stick with it. Maybe this is an hour or two when you get home from work, maybe it’s before bed. Whatever time works for you is fine, just stick with it. Put your phone in a different room if that helps you be less tempted. During this unplugged time, try to be present in the moment. If you’re cooking, try to focus on the smells and tastes of the food your making (not thinking of the meeting you have tomorrow). Sit down and talk with your partner or a friend. Try to do one thing at a time and keep your mind focused on that one thing, even if it’s an easy task. Take time to journal, paint, or read a book.

Catch yourself. If you find yourself bouncing from one app to another, it’s time for a technology break. If you open an app you closed moments ago, it’s time to put the phone down. If you’re staring blankly at your screen, it’s time to come back to the present.

Friends or Family Stuck on Their Devices

Do you ever feel like the people you’re physically with are spending the entire time “with” people via their phone? Have you ever been guilty of this? I’m sure we all have at one point or another. The bottom line is that this is damaging to our relationships. Whether we mean to or not, it can give the message that the other person isn’t worth our time or attention. It’s hard to have meaningful conversations when one person is glued to their phone, half paying attention at best.

How to combat this tech habit:

Be conscious of being present with your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask them to do the same. It might feel like an awkward conversation, but setting these expectations can lead to spending more meaningful quality time together. Need help with what to say? You can try saying something along the lines of: “I really enjoy our time together, but sometimes I feel like we get distracted with our phones, can we try to put them away for the next hour?”

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Information Overload

There is so much information at our fingertips – and not all of it accurate. It’s easy to read one news story and then find yourself an hour later reading about something faintly related from an unknown source. With so much information to explore, we can end up on our devices for much longer than we intended.

How to combat this tech habit:

It’s just not possible to keep up with all the information that’s out there. Find a few credible sources (try to find at least one that tends to have different views than you) and try to stick to those. Alternatively, give yourself a time limit for reading up on whatever you are reading. If you’ve ended up reading the news for a while, chances are you’ve been reading mostly negative stories. Read something light, look at a few memes or pictures of cute puppies to lift your mood after.

Feelings of Inadequacy

Lowered self esteem, increased depression, and increased anxiety have been linked to the overuse of devices and social media. It’s easy to feel jealous or lesser when you spend time looking at photos of people with lavish things, constant vacations, an abundance of friends, and time consuming or expensive hobbies. Many people project their “best self” on social media, leaving out any imperfections. This can make you feel down or bring you lower when you’re scrolling through your platform of choice. Many people miss out on living in the moment and valuing the in person connections of the present in order to get the “perfect” shot to share online. We have been socialized to compare ourselves to others, so when the world is at our fingertips, we are bound to stumble across a post or two (at least) that makes us feel lesser.

How to combat this tech habit:

We tend to post happy moments because that’s what we want to share with the world. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, you need to remind yourself that this is what everyone is doing. Nothing and no one is perfect or happy all the time. And that’s okay. It’s also helpful to check your thoughts, especially those that involve jealousy. I’ve found myself looking at a picture of people on a boat thinking “How cool, I wish I could do that.” But realistically, I don’t. I get sea sick. If someone offered me a free boat ride, there’s a high chance I’d decline.

The key here is to limit yourself and to reality check yourself. If you find yourself having feelings of jealousy or inadequacy, thoughts like “I want that” or “I wish I was/had….” it’s time to take a break. Do something that makes you feel productive and valuable. This could be journaling, doing chores, painting, reading a book, or getting out in the community and volunteering. Again, be mindful and be present in the moment. Listen to where your thoughts are going and take a break when they start to bring you down. Or notice when that time starts and set your device limit to be less than that time. If you start to feel low, write a love letter to yourself or fill a jar with things you are grateful for (possessions, relationships, or aspects of yourself). You can look back on this letter or pull from this jar in the future when you need a pick-me-up.

Isolation

Pretty much everything we need, we can do from our devices. We can pay bills, deposit checks, order food, communicate with friends, family, and strangers. We can watch movies, order furniture, and buy clothes. With all these options it can be easy to isolate ourselves and stay inside for the better part of a day, or for days at a time. However, three of the most critical parts of our happiness involve being outside – being social (in person!), getting exercise, and getting sunlight. (You can read more about this here.)

How to combat this tech habit:

Limit yourself. This has been the theme of how to combat poor tech habits, for good reason. Limit the time you are spending on your device and what you are using it for. I can’t deny how handy it is that we can go grocery shopping on our devices. However, most of us can carve out a bit of time in our day or week to stop by the store. This will get us out of the house, help us feel productive, and give us the opportunity to interact with people. Even if that interaction is just with the cashier. Set up a coffee date with a friend, and suggest leaving your phones out of sight at the very least.

 

I’m not saying to completely ditch your devices and internet; just to be mindful of how much time you’re spending using them. We often turn to our phones to to combat boredom, loneliness, anxiety, or depression. However, this can have large negative impacts on our mental well-being. Over time we can lose interest in our hobbies, our relationships weaken, and our feeling of self-worth can decline. There are some benefits to social platforms – it can be a way to showcase creativity, self-expression, build a community, and find support. The issue is when we let these tech habits take over. When we only have these in our online lives, not our real lives as well.

About Sarah O'Leary

Currently enrolled in the master's program for marriage and family therapy at USD, I am captivated most by the importance of relationships and emotions and their impact on our everyday lives. Both relationships and our emotions help shape who we are as a person. "Relationship" doesn't just mean partner, but rather connections of all kinds. This means everything from strangers, to friends, to partners, and most importantly, the relationship you have with yourself. Emotions are what underlies our thoughts and behaviors, they are the key to understanding ourselves.