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  • Always On: Our Relationship With Technology

    For starters, here’s a funny clip on technology… Technology Loop – Portlandia on IFC
    One day as I was multi-tasking while driving, my daughter, who was five at the time, said “Mommy, when the car is moving both of your hands should be on the wheel. Put your phone away”. Busted.
    Technology is an amazing thing. It keeps us connected to the people that who matter and to the world around us. The tip of our finger can control who we want to be, how we decide to live and where we choose to direct our attention.
    Yes, it is a wonderful thing, but it can also create habits that are destructive. Many of us are so attached to electronic devices that, without constant access, we feel incomplete and edgy. According to an AOL study, 83% of PDA users check their email every day while on vacation and 59% check emails as they arrive. Half of us are sleeping with a cell phone within arm’s reach. Let’s not forget texting while driving (among other things).According to the National Safety Council, “Drivers talking on cell phones miss half of the information in their driving environment”.
    I love technology as much as the next person but have noticed that being always on leaves a void in the quality of relationships and weakens the connection we have with ourselves and our children.
    The magic of Facebook has allowed us to connect to our old high school friends and sending photos in an instant is no longer a novel idea. It doesn’t matter which generation you’re from; people just can’t get enough access to each other. The catch is that the access is from afar and only in amounts that we can control. The messy part of relationships; – the demands of friendships, the reality of emotions, and the vulnerability of being human – can end up left behind in a tidy pile. The temptation to portray ourselves in a certain light (the bright, just returning from vacation, still madly in love, always enjoying parenting,fulfilled at work, kind of light) is hard to resist.
    Children are growing up in a world where they are conditioned to turn on something that allows instant connection with something outside of themselves. When parents don’t teach children how to enjoy solitude they don’t learn how to be alone. This missing link results in loneliness, and when we are lonely the connection with our human spirit is lost. When our minds race to keep up with the stimuli all around, there is no time to be in the moment. Without present moment awareness it is impossible to engage in self- reflection, a basic quality of being human.
    So, what can be done to manage technology instead of letting it manage you? Here are a few tips:
    1.      Observe your habits. How often and for how long each day do you
    spend plugged in? Are you acting on the urge to check email versus the necessity to? Is Facebook the first place you go upon waking up?
    2.      Establish daily quiet time for your family. Read a book, write in a
    journal or make art. Let it be alone time for each member and model what this looks like for your children.
    3.      Turn off screens at regular times. Meals, bedtime hours, and family
    time will be richer without someone texting or having the t.v. on in the background.
    4.      Spend more time outdoors. Put your feet in the grass and look at the clouds.
    5.      Don’t pick up your phone while driving? unless you’re at a red light or stuck in traffic. 6.      Practice connecting in authentic ways. Lift your head up and make
    eye contact with those around you. Smile. Interact.
    7. Self reflect. Is your relationship with technology supporting your values? Do you feel like your online interactions are making you a better person? Are you missing out on life or feeling enriched by it?

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