The idea of technology and how it has become a way of coping for a large percentage of people plays out in highlighting some of the underneath issues such as comparison, loneliness, anxiety, and more. Technology, specifically social media and apps, were deliberately created to get people to engage, click, spend time, and get a dopamine hit, making the cycle that much stronger and harder to break. You might be thinking, “Great, Lindsay…thanks for sharing the addiction that is taking over society.” But here’s how it correlates to community. If you are like me, you might struggle with comparison, loneliness, anxiety, and more. When it feels like life gets to be too much, we often reach for our phones instead of each other. Technology is great and dangerous because it can stand between one another if we aren’t careful.
I once took this “technology quiz”, similar to this one, to see how addicted I was to my phone, my tablet, my laptop, and everything in between. Unfortunately, my extremely high score showed me what I already knew: I’m addicted to technology. That’s embarrassing and frightening to see how much technology impacts my daily life. I think I can rationalize the amount of time I spend on social media for “my job” when in all reality, the time I spend using technology, often times doesn’t have anything to do with work.
In reflecting on technology and why I use it to cope, I realize that using technology gives me the perception that I’m doing something but really I’m avoiding the real work that needs to be done. That work could include avoiding the silence that I actually need to sit in to process my own emotions, avoiding hard tasks that often make me feel overwhelmed and not know to begin, and avoiding the reality of my own life allowing for me to escape.
I remember once reading about how living this way, ends up unconsciously costing you in the long run. The math added up like this: 30 minutes/day = 22 full 8-hour workdays/year; 60 minutes/day = 45 full 8-hour workdays/year; and 90 minutes/day = 68 full 8-hour workdays/year. When I think about all the time I spend avoiding and wasting but see it listed out in terms of workdays, it is mind blowing for me that I would give up 22, 45, or 68 days of my life to scroll! Part of the bigger underlying issue for me when it comes to technology is that I use technology to show the world that “I’m okay” or that “I have my life together” when in all reality, I’m a mess or I’m looking for attention to fulfill the issues in my life.
When my dad passed away almost ten years ago, my mom was diagnosed with cancer less than nine months later. I was only 26 years old and my days were soon filled hospital visits, cancer treatments, doctors’ appointments, or even the hard and ugly parts of being a cancer patient’s caretaker. I can look back on the last nine years and see that I would often escape to scrolling, emails, texts, etc. in order to avoid the truth about my own life. And then there’s the resentment and comparison factor that other 26-year-olds were doing all these fun adventures and seemed to have these perfect lives. And there I was, stuck in an uncomfortable chair in another hospital room trying to get through another hard side effect of cancer treatment. I can look back at the time wasted escaping and comparing and know deep down that most of those images or posts of perfection aren’t truly perfect, but in the moment, it hit a deep and broken wound: I’m not perfect and my life is messy.
I am aware of my weaknesses when it comes to technology, but then there is such great use for it in our line of work connecting with the community, donors, parents, and kids. The question I continue to come back to is how do we use technology to continue to share the impact and good our work is doing in the community, while being honest and true to ourselves and not become fake? I honestly don’t have an answer to that question; however, this is what I’m learning. We have a heart for community — it’s how we were created.
But what if we could commit to sharing uplifting, inspiring, and real content when others are on their phone, instead of the divisive, fear-driven content shared today. Here’s my encouragement that you should know I’m taking to heart and working on myself:
- Instead of wasting time pretending as if you are working on social media content, block out time one day a week to prepare all the content needed for personal and work purposes, helping to eliminate wasted time and escaping the tasks of the day.
- Implement tech breaks into you day with the end goal of decreasing the time to help eliminate the addiction of being on your phone. For example, at the end of a hard task that uses up brain power, reward yourself with 15 minutes of tech time to do whatever. Each week, removing 5 minutes from that time.
- Do the hard work, the intrinsic work of your personal awareness of technology. Here are some of the questions that you can use to evaluate your time spent:
- What are you avoiding?
- Why are you avoiding it?
- Is this time making you feel better about yourself?
- Lean in to your community when you feel like you can’t. Share with a trusted person in your village about your feelings of comparison, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and more instead of avoiding, escaping, or mindlessly scrolling.
Imagine what we could do in life if we just stopped scrolling! Think about the new hobby you could pick up, the clean house you could have, or the time spent with your friends, family, and village! You can do this — you can put the phone down!