Technology has become so engrained into our lives, that its hard to imagine what it was like before the industry boom. A few days ago, I heard some media source say, “if you were born before 1985 then you were the last generation to remember what it was like before computers”. This statement (i admit I did not fact check this!) got me thinking about the rise of anxiety to epidemic proportions, and how this is related to our dependence on technology.
As a member of the “last generation to remember what is was like before computers” lets take a stroll down memory lane. The first thing I think of is the card catalogs from the libraries which are now obsolete (although I confess to finding one in the city library of Montevideo awhile back and actually stopped to play with it because it was so exciting to see one!). This missing piece of the past is a significant example of how access to information has dramatically changed. Gone are the days when pleasant conversations at a restaurant or bar where you could debate random facts with friends, and have fun challenging each other. Now we settle the matter in seconds by searching Google. With mobile technology constantly at our finger tips, we are privy to almost any fact. Now here’s the flip side. We are also responsible for a lot more.
Technology has put everything at our fingertips. We can now look up any piece of information we want from our phone, tablet, computer or google glasses. We can pay our bills while waiting for the bus, or check our email while sitting at a red light. We can arrange dry-cleaning pick up online, and even order dinner or groceries with a click of a few buttons. Sounds awesome huh? So with all this wonderful technology, why does it seem like we have less time? Why are anxiety rates at an all time high? Why are real relationships getting harder to maintain?
Being able to do things faster, seems to have raised the bar in regards to how much we can do. Now that we can do X,Y, & Z quicker we can now take on the role of A, B & C. Now we are doing twice as much. Theoretically it should work right? You have 15 minutes to do 3 tasks. With technology, now those 3 task take 7 minutes. It seems logical that you can fit in another 3 tasks, you will be utilizing the same amount of time and expending the same amount of energy. I see it as, now instead of my mind keeping track of 3 task it’s now responsible to monitor 6 tasks. On a small scale this is not a big deal, but apply this over your entire day, your entire week, and your entire life.
Just because technology has sped things up, doesn’t mean our brains have necessarily kept pace. This causes feelings of being overwhelmed and creates stress and anxiety. Now, lets add social media to the mix. Now everyone can “keep up with the Joneses” online. They surf the websites and follow up on what people are doing. However, these relationships are not strong and supportive in real life. When you are struggling and overwhelmed, most people don’t turn to social media, they turn to the people in their life for support. As the years go by, real life social networks are dwindling while online superficial social networks are growing.
Another aspect to look at is our inability to shut off. With technology being accessible all the time there is little alone time to recharge, or quality time with those in our life because we are always checking our phones or hopping on the computer. I know at least some people reading this sleep with their phone next to the bed, and wake during the night to check it. Our boss can always reach us, friends can always find us, and family can always come looking for advice. But we weren’t designed to always be on. Humans need breaks, we need solace, and we need to recharge our batteries. This constant pressure to perform, to always be accessible, to always be productive leaves very little left for patience and relaxation. I believe this is a part of why anxiety is plaguing our society these days. We are overwhelmed with life’s expectations, pressures, and demands while our refuge for relaxation is growing smaller.
There is hope though. Setting aside certain times to be inaccessible is a good start. Make it a point to eat dinner as a family and ban all cell phones from the table. Try turning your cell phone off while driving home from work. This gives you personal time while ensuring there are no car accidents because you were checking emails. Let loved ones know you are “unplugging” this weekend and if there’s an emergency they can call the house line (for those of you who still have one). Anything that works for you is fine. Get creative, get motivated, and challenge those around you to do the same! I challenge YOU to unplug!