Oh, please do not get me wrong at all! I LOVE, #heart, technology. Clearly! The whole point to my blog post today is the possibility that too much of a good thing may be at detrimental. Society is changing with the advancement of technology; and, so are the expectations placed upon us to be hyper-connected, relentlessly, all of the time.
Well, it is easy to to find ourselves feeling that we could NEVER unplug, experiencing pure panic if we were expected to give up our little Dopamine tech boost. Wait what?!?! Give up tech? or Dopamine?
Yes, Dopamine that famous neurotransmitter (chemical messenger in your brain), that holds a prized position in the annals of popular science as the “reward” drug. Much of what we do online releases dopamine into the brain’s pleasure centers, resulting in obsessive pleasure-seeking behaviour. Just one more text, one more email, one more level in the game, one more internet search, and so on…
There are consequences to this tech obsession…
Here is what some smart people are saying about the downside of technology overuse:
“For a lot of people it’s the lack of offline time which causes hyper-arousal of the brain. People walk about in a state of distractibility.” Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan.
Author and psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair also thinks multi-tasking, or multi-screening, is a dangerous game. “We see a decrease in memory, a decline in student grades, they’re not developing the part of their brain that needs to be developed for maintaining a singular focus,” she told the BBC.
Still not sold? well…
There was some pretty cool research conducted by the International Center for Media at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., which led “The World Unplugged” project.
What they found was a clear majority of almost 1,000 university students in 10 countries, including China, Chile, the U.K. and Uganda, were unable to voluntarily stay away from computers, televisions, cellphones and MP3 players for 24 hours. Many students also reported mental and physical symptoms of distress and “employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression,” when reporting their experiences of trying to go unplugged for a full day.
Please take a moment to click here to open up a full pdf poster of what students around the world had to say about how they felt during their 24 hours without media. As a counsellor working with post-secondary students, I was shocked and saddened for the level of distress felt by these students.
Fortunately, students left this study with some insight. Many students said that they learned that relying on devices such as cellphones “actually inhibited their ability to manage their lives as fully as they hoped,” the authors reported.
I am going to be very transparent about my approach to mental health distress. I take a developmental approach rather than a “disease model” approach to mental health and wellness. I don’t believe that people are broken, but rather we develop very strong habits that may have helped us at one time in our lives but become a problem (maladaptive) for us later or in different settings. There is a great CBC podcast, “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease“, that explains this positive, hope instilled, approach to mental distress.
There is a very famous poem written by Dr. Dorothy Law Nolte, Children Learn What They Live. I highly encourage you to check it out. It really illustrates the impact of learning on our habits and behaviours. Perhaps another line can be added to this insightful and true poem…
If children learn that we communicate only through technology, they learn to avoid face-to-face interactions in favour of a text or to engage with people not in the room with them now.
We are so quick to call something a disorder, to describe people as broken and incapable in the realm of learning to be different. Habits are learned and unlearned and often, good or bad, they have a developmental function and purpose in our lives.
Some simple strategies to reduce the electronic overload and regain a healthy balance of life, work, school and technology.
If you take responsibility, you can develop a strong strategy because it is coming from you (intrinsic); rather than relying on an outside source of motivation (extrinsic).
Believe me, I can see how ironic it is that I am writing today about the perils of technology using WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube…I know, I know 😉
What I really do know is that there is so much to be said for the value of MODERATION. Technology is awesome, until it is not awesome; so, lets moderate this goodness.
It is not simply going without; it is about filling your time in a different way. It is about using technology as intended; as a tool to improve your life not a replacement or a way to avoid difficult/unpleasant things (i.e. real time social interaction).
What electronic toy can you just not live without? Try separating yourself, in small increments …just to see if you can do it 🙂
The whole process of psychotherapy is helping people develop strategies for emotional distress. Learning to experience emotional discomfort and know that it will pass. Build your skills, sit with emotion, sit with temptation and replace with healthier habits.
“Hi Tech, we’re breaking up, just for a moment, to see if I can live without you…for a moment”
FYI, I went tech-free this past Friday; hence, no eSuccess-Coaching Blog 🙂
Dr. Heather Drummond, EdD
eSuccess-Coach * Passionate Advocate for Student Success