Are we too attached to our screens? How can we achieve a tech-life balance in a digitally-driven world?
As we dive deeper into the age of AI, machine learning, smart phones, and incredibly addictive social media apps, the line between online and offline life is blurring to a stunning degree. Society is becoming increasingly glued to screens, with people constantly checking their phones, tablets, and computers at all hours of the day. This reliance on technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, affecting relationships, productivity, physical health and overall happiness. If anything is obvious, it’s that breaks from technology are healthy and perhaps even necessary for some, and more importantly, finding a balance is critical. Yet, stepping away in a sustainable and repeatable way does require discipline and actionable steps to find the sweet spot between embracing technology and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Screen Overuse Is A Societal Norm
Data from the American Psychological Association tells us that 65% of Americans agree that periodically “unplugging” or taking a digital detox is vital for their mental health. Yet, not many actually follow-through with doing it.
These and other statistics are alarming, and have become more pronounced in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that kept millions of people more isolated and with less social interaction. During that time, the drive to work was virtually erased, interpersonal communication changed, and the quality time spent with others shifted to a virtual connection rather than an in-person one. These shifts, while necessary for a period of time, also reflect a society that has become even more dependent on digital devices across all ages and demographics.
Technology is Taking a Toll on Our Daily Lives
The constant use of technology and the need to stay connected have led to numerous negative consequences in our lives in terms of relationships, productivity, anxiety, mental health, and workplace productivity, just to name a few.
The overuse of technology can create distance between loved ones and strain personal relationships. It can affect productivity through a constant barrage of notifications that limits the ability to focus and accomplish tasks efficiently. Constant exposure to screens can interfere with sleep patterns and contribute to anxiety and stress. Excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem. And constantly being “plugged in” can lead to burnout and decreased job satisfaction.
Finding the Sweet Spot and Tech-Life Balance
To establish a healthier relationship with technology, it’s essential to first recognize its impact on your life and the steps you can take to create a tech-life balance that’s sustainable in the long run.
Take inventory: Reflect on how technology is affecting your life negatively. Be honest with yourself about what’s happening and consider the fact that around 6 in 10 Americans feel they use their phone too much. This extends way beyond phones, in reality. By taking inventory of one’s tech/life balance, you are able to see just how dependent you are.
Identify priorities: Determine which aspects of your life are most important to improve. Focus on the top two areas where technology has the greatest impact, such as sleep or relationships. Look at the impact on your mental health and that of those around you. A vast majority of those who look at their digital usage will see that small changes can go a long way.
Set boundaries: Establish time limits for using technology and designate specific periods for unplugging or disconnecting from devices. For example, you can enforce a “no screens” policy during mealtimes. Additionally, following the advice of medical professionals who recommend no devices for at least an hour before bed will improve sleep, and focusing time on your interpersonal relationships, a hobby, or even reading a real book will help improve your mental health and happiness.
Embrace mindful technology use: Practice being present and fully engaged during your interactions with others, whether online or offline. This can help improve your relationships and overall well-being. It will have a positive impact on your mental health and will also help enhance your productivity at work.
Seek support: Encourage friends and family to join you in your quest for tech-life balance, creating a supportive network that holds each other accountable. Think of it as a workout for your mind and find a group to do something else with – or support each other – when you are on your digital break time.
While technology has become an integral part of our lives, it’s crucial to maintain a healthy balance to prevent its negative impact on your well-being. By taking inventory of our digital habits, identifying priorities, and setting boundaries, you can foster a more mindful relationship with technology and improve your overall quality of life, perhaps well beyond what you would expect. Taking a break doesn’t mean giving up technology or going “cold turkey”. It simply means looking at how you use it and finding a best practice that works for you, to incorporate it into your life.