About six years ago, I wrote an article on how so many of us are getting caught up in the web of e-everything, losing connection with others and the world around us.
I’m posting it below. And, I don’t think that things have changed for the better. Do you? Let me know what you think!
In the last few weeks, about a dozen of my clients have all expressed similar concerns:
- I can’t stop surfing the internet
- I’m anxious when I don’t have my cell phone with me
- I’m constantly texting
- I keep checking Facebook
I’m concerned, too.
The e-world is gobbling up our time; our connections to others and to the world around us; our ability to focus and concentrate for extended periods; and our capacity to calm ourselves through non-electronic means.
What’s wrong with constantly being online, or texting friends while paying scant attention to the person you are actually with? What’s the problem with repetitively checking for e-mails, voicemails, texts, or Facebook updates? Isn’t it great to watch a movie while reading a book while listening to a song while checking the headlines while monitoring Facebook while tweeting while composing an article? And why not communicate primarily by text message?
Here are some problems with excessive use of e-communication and e-distractions:
- Texting requires far less of an emotional investment than a live, face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) interaction. When you text, you may feel at a safer distance, less exposed and vulnerable. But you are also less connected to the other person, so your relationship is potentially less real. If you value intimacy, texting as your predominant communication mode may limit that.
- Texting is devoid of cues: Because you can’t hear voice inflections or read facial expressions, it is difficult to understand subtleties in a text “conversation”. Misunderstandings, often severe, are bound to happen. I’ve known many couples to have serious, tearful fights over ridiculous text misunderstandings. And when texts are sent but not received, hurt feelings and anger can snowball.
- Surfing the internet, or constantly checking for e-mails and texts, reduces our ability to concentrate for long periods. Through repetitive clicking for more and more tidbits of fascinating information, our brains are literally being rewired to seek instant rewards over the rewards that come from sustained focus. Moreover, the pleasure we get from these activities (akin to winning a few bucks from a slot machine) primes our brains to keep clicking, creating a cycle that is hard to break.
- Many of us use the internet and other e-activities to soothe ourselves when we are anxious, stressed, or uncomfortable. But because these distracting, quickly rewarding, and pleasurable behaviors easily become addictive, we can find ourselves ever more wired and unable to truly calm ourselves or be at peace.
- Finally (strictly my opinion): Constantly scanning all of your e-feeds to find out that a friend just ate a sandwich is a colossal waste of time!
Don’t get me wrong: I know that the e-world has profound benefits that I don’t need to list here. But we are all becoming like those lab rats who press the bar to get a sip of tasty sugar water. After a while, the rats do nothing but press, and press, and press, to get a constant stream of sugar water in lieu of any real nourishment. E-mails, texts, apps, Facebook updates, tweets, and the three hundred other possible distractions in any given moment are our sugar water and we’re pressing the bar faster and faster.
The e-world isn’t going to go away. Hard to imagine, but it’s likely to get far more complex and enveloping.
If we value the ability to connect intimately and authentically to others; to appreciate the natural world that is still all around us; to enjoy reality; to be able to think deeply about something for a good few minutes or more; to read a book or watch a movie without being distracted every thirty seconds; or to tolerate all sorts of feelings, and be able to truly quiet ourselves; then we must set limits on how much we allow the e-world to intrude into our lives.