Compulsions or Technology Overload?

Welcome back. This has become a detox from technology project. Day 2 . And I think I have a few answers and more questions. But first, let me just say, the phone is not the problem when used for its intended purpose. As a phone. I feel now that I can pin point exactly the source of my distress. It’s called technology overload. Larry Losen, PhD, in his presentation “E-Life in the new Millennium: Promise or more techno stress” asks a very interesting question “Is your life easier with all the new technology?” I don’t know about yours. Mine may be easier but it’s definitely not simpler. And I miss simple.

There is just too many ways to communicate today. I could be texting you, facebook-ing (is that even a word?) my friend in Albania, emailing a business associate while I’m watching a Youtube video AND am on hold with my bank. Everybody is talking but nobody seems to really listen or communicate.

We have become experts in multitasking. But has it really made us happier? What am I going to do with the time I just saved multitasking? Get more things done? Even vacations are not really a break from technology. My phone contains every outlet I need to keep me occupied 24/7 even when I’m on vacation. What happened to just being? After all, as my yoga instructor used to say ‘we are human beings not doings”.

In 2008, the National consumer electronic association, found that 8 out of 10 teenagers cannot imagine their day without technology. 80% of teens 12-17 years old use social networks weekly and are likely to spend 15-20 hours a day online, on the computer, using email, texting, playing video games, skyping, IM-ing, listening to music or watching TV. OK you probably missed that, I’ll repeat. 15-20 hours per day. I wasn’t brought up this way. I didn’t use a computer until I was in college, we didn’t even have a house phone for the longest time. Growing up in Albania we had only one television channel (damn those communists) and it didn’t start programming until 6 PM. Those were fun times!


But now that all this technology is not only available but actually super cool, it is very easy for me to get sucked in it every day  in the same way teenagers do. I happen to actually like it. I think twitter is genius. Tweets are reshaping the English language as we speak. I love Facebook and its amazing ability to foster our voyeuristic tendencies, social awkwardness and adult “imaginary audience” syndrome. I love text lingo and trying to figure out what the heck yours just meant. I love being able to watch the latest TED videos, listen to NPR, browse CNN or other interesting news and latest research in psychology, read my favorite blog etc, ect. It makes me feel informed, connected and often inspires new ideas.

However there is one major problem with all this wonderful technology. It is called Artificial Urgency: the belief and expectation that we are to respond immediately to a non-urgent request (can we tell anymore what is really urgent?). For instance, if I get an email or a Facebook comment or a text I feel that I need to respond right away. And if you respond to my email right away that instant gratification  over time will condition me to expect a response at an unreasonable speed. It also makes me depend on your response too much. Any type of perceived urgency will produce a stress-response in your brain. Over-time, being exposed to too much technology may contribute to a chronic stress state which leads to irritability, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, etc.

The truth is communication through technology is not very representative of the rest of our physical experiences, it does not obey time and space laws, or other unspoken social laws,  we have limited ability to fact-check if things are really what they appear online therefore many interactions are often unrealistic. Our technology-aided communication ways are filled with conversations we have in our own head. I’ve come to a point where I realize time traveling is great but I crave face to face contact. And I’m tired of looking at a computer screen.

The good news is in Day 2, limiting my technology use is already working. I feel more energized, focused and…surprisingly calmer.

Notice I said limiting…to be continued


5 Comments on “Compulsions or Technology Overload?”

  1. akarmin says:

    Before this age of instant gratification, more of us grew up in conditions where some level of hardship was the norm. Thrift, that rather old-fashioned habit, was an essential part of even middle class life; things you longed for did not appear instantly but often had to be earned. As a result they were much more valued and appreciated. There was a sense of pride in mastery and achievement, in having worked one’s way to a goal, in having had the experience of some responsibility and power in achieving it, even in very early childhood.

    • Exactly. Very well put. I believe what you are referring to is the fact that the older generation holds a different set of values compared to today’s teens and young adults. How do you preserve old values in an ever-changing world?

  2. l0ve0utl0ud says:

    This is an excellent post. I was going to go on a technology break myself! You make some very interesting points, especially about our need to react and reply immediately to e-mails, texts etc. This is one of the reasons for which I do not use any social networking sites 😉

  3. Thank you! I appreciate that. I guess we’ll see what the week brings…couldn’t stay from responding here though hmmm habits are hard to change 🙂

  4. […] In an article entitled “Compulsions of Technology Overload?” featured in the blog “A Couch and a Chair”, writer Elvita Kondili captures the problem in a nutshell. “Our technology-aided communication ways are filled with conversations we have in our own head.”  It’s a great article.  I encourage you to read the whole thing. […]

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