A: I get more questions on this problem than any other topic. It’s clear that over-engagement with technology is having a devastating effect on our lives. But the masses are oblivious.
They are like four-year-olds stuffing themselves with chocolate cupcakes, not realizing that they’re doing self-harm. As kids are seduced by the sweetness, we are lured by the “good feeling” our phones give us. Now that is sick.
I wonder if the grownups have any idea what they’re doing to their own families. According to an article in The Huffington Post by Chris Rowan, a pediatric occupational therapist, “Children now rely on technology for the majority of their play, grossly limiting challenges to their creativity and imaginations, as well as limiting necessary challenges to their bodies to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. Sedentary bodies bombarded with chaotic sensory stimulation are resulting in delays in attaining child developmental milestones, with subsequent negative impact on basic foundation skills for achieving literacy. Hard-wired for high speed, today’s young are entering school struggling with self-regulation and attention skills necessary for learning, eventually becoming significant behavior management problems for teachers in the classroom.”
It’s ironic that a technology that promises “connection” actually reduces authentic relationships to shadows. Mindfulness, listening, and being present — three practices essential to a happy life — go out the window the minute a person decides her Facebook update is more important than what the individual in front of her is saying. The herd mentality prevents us from seeing the impact this has on our wellness. After all, everyone’s doing it. And we value it, another reason it can creep in and gradually gain position over us.
So how do you deal with a friend who turns to the phone while you’re talking with him? Well, folks have to be retrained, and this is accomplished by example and a small dose of discomfort.
First of all, explain that you treasure your time with him and want to enjoy every moment. He needs to understand that you’re coming from a place of love and concern. Then ask him to turn off the phone while you’re together. Be sure to keep your phone off as well.
If he won’t oblige or compromise, get up and leave. This may sound drastic, but a lot is at stake, and his behavior must be met with a consequence. You know how my mother taught us not to put her on hold when we called her? By hanging up. We got the message.
Friends and family groan about my cell phone never being on. I’m trying to make a point and keep a healthy balance. The phone has its place, but that place must have boundaries. They look baffled when I explain that I don’t wish to become dependent on it.
The bottom line is that we’re increasingly out of kilter. We now move less, feel less, and get outside less. But when the latest app or device hits the market, we rush to buy it without ever considering the true price.
As for me, I’d rather unplug and fill my space with old-fashioned books, sunlight, silence, cats and dogs, nature, belly laughs, and my beloveds. I prefer mystery, spontaneity, and freedom. I’d rather wander than use GPS, dawdle instead of “google.” If that makes me a Luddite then so it is. But here’s one thing I know for sure: This old-school girl will die with a smile on her face — and both of her hands untied.
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Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.