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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Are you digitally dependent? How to Reshape Your Relationship with Technology

Jan 03, 2024 11:48AM ● By Adam Cochran

One of my primary goals for 2024 is to be more discerning in how I use social media and technology. My addiction to my phone became especially bad last year, prompting me to examine how my use of social media was impacting my moods.

I realized that when I was happy, I wouldn’t touch my phone. However, when I was feeling down, social media was the perfect tool to confirm my biases. Regardless of how you feel, there is always a quote, platitude or stanza that can make you feel like you’re reading an affirmation or concrete universal truth in psychology or physics. An inaccurate absolute like, “You see beauty in people’s hearts, but the superficial world can’t see past your ugliness” somehow seems more valid when it’s presented in a Courier font over the top of a photograph with mist covering a vacant meadow.

The challenge of living a connected life, whether through social media or the fact that we have to use internet-embedded technology for virtually every aspect of our lives, is that it encourages you to draw subjective conclusions from objective data.

In the days of check writing and using a check register to reconcile my bank statements, I recall keeping a “secret” buffer amount in my account in case I ever forgot to account for a check or a cash withdrawal. Today, we have debit cards and apps that allow us to monitor our account balances, expenditures and transfer funds seamlessly from anywhere. 

The ability to access information about ourselves and the world at any given moment can create a false sense of security when faced with impulsive buying opportunities. For example, when tempted by a $400 72-inch TV while grocery shopping, you can check your account balance on a smartphone to see if you have enough money. You realize you can afford the TV if you buy cheap starchy foods and avoid any emergency expenses.

Another example involves using the fitness data on smartwatches. While some people may consult these metrics to alleviate guilt after an up-sized meal, the failure to consistently monitor their overall health renders these tools less effective than if you let your conscience guide your fitness and health.

This year, I hope to use my brain, my emotions and my heart more and technology less.

There are many simple ways to cut down on your dependency on technology. Some of these steps can yield immediate benefits without a noticeable sense of sacrifice.

Turn off push notifications for non-essential apps
Alerts on your phone and devices can make anything feel like a crisis that demands your immediate attention. There’s no urgency in knowing the instant someone likes your post on Facebook. You don’t need real-time updates on package deliveries. Most people don’t even need to be immediately notified when they’ve received a new email. By turning off these notifications, you can regain control over your attention and reduce unnecessary distractions.

Force yourself to take social media breaks
All social media platforms allow you to deactivate your account temporarily without deleting it. This means that your entire social media world continues to exist whether you participate or not—and chances are, you won’t miss a thing. Social media operates like a real-world soap opera: If you miss a month’s worth of episodes, you can catch up within the first 10 minutes of returning to it.

Keep a paper journal
There is something magical about keeping a paper journal. Unlike digital platforms that merely present facts, a paper journal provides an offline record for the information you choose to remember and document. While technology might serve as a factual archive of our lives, it falls short of deciphering the value found in the time, energy and purpose that can be gleaned from all that raw information.

Increase your people time
Go to church, volunteer for a non-profit, go on more dates, people watch and utilize the phone function of your smartphone to connect with friends for a casual chat or to share a joke. Technology should serve as a tool to make the mundane and difficult parts of life more enjoyable, not as a means to escape opportunities for improvement, connection or fulfilling genuine human needs.