As I write this, I’m sitting in one of the massage chairs at ONE Nail Salon. The stars aligned and I was able to sneak out for an hour to get a much needed pedicure. On my way out the house, I grabbed my laptop to take with me to the nail salon because that’s what I do. I multitask, for better or for worse. Now, I’m sitting here with my laptop securely placed on a pillow, so I can work without risking it falling into the water where my feet are soaking below. In the background, Christina Perri’s song, “Human” is playing in the background. Seems appropriate, right?
Last month, I kickstarted a new series for the parents in our community designed to offer up solidarity as we work to raise the next generation. Unlike our parents, we’re equipped with something new – technology that enables us to connect regardless of place or time.
This constant connectivity is a blessing, right? Our phones allow us, as parents and people, to connect and we all want that. Humans are wired for relational connection.
Our phones also give us another blessing – control. As parents, control isn’t something we often times feel we have a whole lot of (even though we supposedly should). So, when we can control what, where, and how we operate – work or otherwise – it feels good.
But the reality is, this shift in how we operate is changing the fabric of our being. The way we form relationships has changed (Facebook and Instagram, I’m looking at you). The way we keep in touch with the people in our life has changed. The way we look for jobs, work with clients, and even vocalize our opinions has changed (hello, forums).
Yes, society today looks very different than it did 10 years ago, so the question becomes, are we better off because of it? According to some studies, probably not.
A study of students at one Seoul University found that students who showed signs of smartphone addiction had a harder time self-regulating the learning process and poorer attention levels. It turns out our brains cannot multitask quite as well as modern technology would like to think we can.
But this goes beyond basic productivity. It goes to our emotional state too. A Turkish study found that increased smartphone usage led to higher levels of anxiety, poorer levels of sleep, and depression. With that said, being far away from our smartphone can lead to stress too. There’s a term for the panic some people feel when they realize they’ve left their phone at home – nomophobia. Google it. It’s a real thing.
We’re not just harming ourselves with this influx of technology either. We’re harming our relationships too. The University of Michigan found that students today are 40% less empathetic than students in the 1980s and 1990s because machines have replaced human contact.
And yet, here I sit, laptop popped open on my lap, smartphone on the arm rest, multitasking while I practice some self-care and take advantage of a quiet moment to focus. Guess what? It feels right and I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to connect and control my time in this way. I chose to take my laptop here and I chose to open it up. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Nor should you feel pressured to.
That’s the real problem, as I see it, with technology today ¬– there’s too much pressure to connect or disconnect that we forget to lean into what we need for our families and ourselves. I’m mindful of the time I spend plugged in. When I get home to my family, I’ll put my laptop and phone away because in 10 years I don’t want to look back and realize that I traded in the opportunity to connect with my phone and work in exchange for connecting with my kids. But for now, this is my choice to plug in and I’m glad I am.
As a society, it’s time we give each other – and ourselves – grace. It’s time to take advantage of the opportunity to connect and disconnect as we see fit. Because after all, we’re only human, and we bleed when we fall down…
… so shouldn’t we do what we need to in order to stay upright? I vote yes.