Technology is part of our everyday lives in so many ways, and it has great benefits. We can learn, stay connected with family and loved ones and work from anywhere.
As with anything, however, it’s important to have boundaries and a healthy relationship with technology including our phones, tablets, laptops, and even our televisions.
If you’re too connected, you may actually have an addiction to technology. By learning to recognize the signs of a problematic tech relationship, you can take steps to be more mindful of how you interact with devices in your life.
The following are some of the signs you might have an unhealthy relationship with technology
● You use your phone when it’s dangerous to do so, for example, when you’re behind the wheel. In most states, there are laws against using your phone when you’re driving but people do it anyway, and it’s a leading cause of distracted driving accidents and deaths. For example, according to Sweeney Merrigan Law, a vehicle traveling 35 MPH covers 100 feet while taking a two-second look at a text message on their phone. If you’re willing to put yourself and others in a deadly situation to use your phone, it can represent a problematic technology relationship.
● You feel anxious if you go too long without looking at your phone. If you’ve had a time where you weren’t able to check your phone, did you feel panicked or nervous? That’s not normal, nor is it healthy. You shouldn’t feel anxiety when you can’t check your phone, even if you had to go for a few hours without doing it.
● You’re using your phone as your main source of entertainment, or you check it often, even when you’re with friends or loved ones. If your phone or other technology is driving a wedge in your relationships, that’s a problematic pattern. You shouldn’t even be interacting with technology when you’re spending time with the people you care about unless you have to deal with something urgent.
● You’re not getting good sleep because you’re staying up late and using technology. This might mean that you’re regularly binging a show, working late at night on your laptop, playing a game, or scrolling social media. One of the most important things for your health is adequate sleep, and if that’s not happening, it’s a red flag that you have an unhealthy relationship with technology.
● If you’re using technology to the point that you lose track of time, then you should rethink your relationship with it.
● When someone has a substance use disorder, one of the big signs is often that they are defensive or dishonest about their use. If you’re finding yourself in the same situation regarding your technology use, you might want to set new boundaries and rethink things.
So if you do notice these troubling habits in yourself, what can you do to have a healthy relationship with technology?
Be Aware Of How Much You’re Using Technology
The saying goes that the first step is admitting you have a problem. If you realize that you’re using technology too much, set it up so that you can track your actual usage.
For example, there are apps that you can add to your phone that will break down your daily and weekly screen time and will even show you specifically how you were spending that time.
A lot of people are completely shocked when they see their screen time reports. They can’t believe they wasted hours of their day, every day, mindlessly using technology.
Facing up to how much you’re using your devices is a critical part of motivating yourself to make a change. Tracking your usage also gives you a baseline so you can see how you’re improving over time.
Set Goals for Yourself
Once you have a reliable way to track your tech usage, you can then set specific goals for yourself.
Don’t be too hard on yourself at first. Set small, manageable goals that you can celebrate when you achieve them. Over time, you can set more rigorous goals.
For example, maybe you start out by telling yourself that if you work for one hour, you can have 10 minutes of social media time.
This is not just giving you a goal, but it’s also giving you a time limit on your usage, so you don’t get into the technology wormhole.
Take Time Every Day Without Your Phone or Other Devices
You should set aside a chunk of time every day where you put your phone, tablet, and laptop in another room. You can then use the time to be mindful and learn how to be at peace without the constant stimulation and entertainment of a mobile device.
You can also do regular technology detoxes. For example, set aside a weekend every few months where you don’t use technology at all.
Keep Your Phone Away When You’re with Other People
Whether you’re having dinner at home with your family or you’re out for drinks with friends, if you’re with other people commit to not taking your phone out during that time. Your entertainment becomes the people you’re with, rather than your phone.
Ask Yourself Why You’re Using Technology Every Time
Before you’re going to open your laptop or pick up your phone, a good way to be mindful and develop better habits is to ask yourself why you’re doing it. This forces you to re-evaluate whether you really need to look at a screen at that moment.
Finally, don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. Put your phone in another room to charge at night and use an old-fashioned alarm clock. You’ll be surprised what a change this will create in your routines.
You’re setting a different tone for your day when you don’t wake up and immediately start checking messages or scrolling. You’re forced to sit with yourself for a bit before you start your day.