Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -Arthur C. Clarke
It started to become a real problem when I was eleven or twelve.
I would stay up late thinking, writing in my journal, listening to the sounds our old, creaky house made when the wind blew strongly. The more I thought, the more stimulated I became—it was exciting. But then the next day, when I slumped in my chair and struggled to focus on the chalkboard, I regretted the sleeplessness of the night before.
I didn’t connect the dots then, but now, looking back, my insomnia seemed particularly problematic when I would allow technology to infringe on my last waking hours. My bed time was 9:30, so I watched TV until 9:15 and then rushed to get into bed. Later, when I was sixteen and no longer had a bed time, I would stay up late writing on my computer, reading about reptiles on forums, and exploring other various interests (such as religion, cute puppies, popular bands, and later, friends’ Facebook and MySpace pages).
It was a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, I was inspired by the potential technology, and in particular the Internet, unlocked in me. I explored the depths of any subject that interested me, and felt my mind opening to worlds far beyond what I had seen growing up in Indiana. On the other hand, I felt possessed by technology.
I struggled to sleep when I knew that I had the world available at the click of a mouse. If I didn’t check my email or Facebook or cell phone for a couple of hours, I started to feel that I was somehow “missing out.”
Obviously, I didn’t have a healthy relationship with technology.
But how can we? Today’s world is often described as fast-paced, and if that’s the case, how can we afford to slow down?
Technology (in this post, I am referring mainly to Internet—email, Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., and not medical, industrial, or other applications of technology) gives us the opportunity to connect and share with those that we love, and to meet new people who share our interests and values. But it also allows us to find information and teachers that can greatly benefit us.
Through my work with Weaving Influence, I have begun to understand the difference between absorbing information through technology and engaging with it.
And though I have not yet reached my ideal balance (sometimes I still get excited and rush to “Google” something late at night), I have a few ideas and practices that help me stay grounded.
- Honoring the Sabbath – Though not everyone maintains a religious practice or community, I think everyone can benefit from picking a day or time to step back from technology. Athletes must rest between workouts, and similarly, taking a break from the computer or phone helps us use our communication tools more effectively and efficiently throughout the week.
- Music – Its one thing to listen to Pandora (which I love) while working, but another to hear live music or play music yourself! I personally love to sing and play guitar, and even if I am the only one listening, it gives my brain a break from thinking, and lets me engage with myself and others on an emotional, non-sterile level.
- Remember why we use technology at all –This is a tricky one. I try to keep in mind that technology (particularly gadgets) are supposed to make our lives easier and less stressful so we can put more energy towards what matters to us. In this way, I strive to focus on what technology can do to foster real relationships, and how it can serve as an educational tool. Whatever technology strategy I develop in my own life, I make sure that it serves those goals.
As a writer, technology can break me or make me. I can allow myself to be distracted by the infinite possibilities the Internet offers and never finish what I started. Or I can sit down, focus on something, and utilize all of the tools my computer has to offer to make my piece as good as it can be. I can then use technology to share my art, request feedback, and read what others have written.
We have some powerful tools at our fingertips. We must use them carefully, and not allow them to use us.
And how about you? What values do you keep in mind when making decisions about your technology use?
Photo (c) Molly Page
Margy – this is so well said! I completely agree and identify with all of this, but especially about unplugging for a day – that decision has been my sanity saver. It is such a fine line and it’s so easy to get sucked into the world of technology, especially when it’s your job. Well written – thanks!!
Thanks, Carrie! I hope you enjoy your unplugged week!
Such an important reminder! Thanks for the encouragement to take an electronic Sabbath regularly.
Great post, Margy! Thought-provoking and insightful. I think this world of technology is so new, we’re all trying to figure it out. I hadn’t made the connection between insomnia and using technology just before bed, but it makes a lot of sense. I think many people are addicted to it the same way they are to cigarettes, claiming they can stop anytime they want. I am going to take your advice – off the computer and devices at least 2 hours before bedtime and to step away from technology completely one day a week. We all need to learn how to have a healthy relationship with technology. Thanks for your thoughts and advice.
Thanks, Aunt Lyn! I would love to hear how your “technology sabbath” goes. I’ve noticed a dramatic difference in my life, and as someone who has always struggled to sleep, avoiding technology before bed really helps.
Thank you for these insights Margy. Striking the right balance between staying “connected” and using technology as a tool to benefit your work versus being “addicted” to it in an unhealthy manner is a challenge for many of us. I particulary like your idea of applying the Sabbath concept to using technology and look forward to trying that myself.
Thanks for your kind words, Randy. Its amazing how some of the oldest ideas are the most timeless (sabbath, fasting, etc.), and how they can have real and lasting effects on our lives.
Very inspiring. I definetly think that technology is starting to get in the way of our regular daily lives. It really is important to remember that we should use it as a tool to enrich our lives rather than creating more stresses. Thanks for sharing!
Ari- You are inspiring!
This post was very useful for me, especially during this formative time of my life where it’s so important to set good practices to guide me as I continue to learn and grow with age. We all use technology for important reasons, but it’s definitely something that gets out of control if we don’t reflect on what we’re doing and why. Thanks for the reminder on finding healthy ways to engage with it.