On a note not entirely unrelated to my recent hiatus from all things internet, today’s post is about the damaging effect of excessive technology. I haven’t been on the internet much for the last two weeks- the first was because the week before spring break is always hectic at school, and the second was because I took a spur of the moment trip to the Dominican Republic and there wasn’t much internet access.
Since essentially my entire job is based on the internet, I spent lots of time on my computer reading articles, tweeting, blogging, facebooking, and interacting with other organisations. I obsessively read newsletters, try to keep up with all of the blogs that I follow, and bookmark interesting things to research and write about. These aren’t the healthiest of things, but I still manage to set myself a limit (albeit a high one) of how much time I spend online. I noticed a huge shift in my general well-being when I resolved to spend more time not staring at a computer screen.
I also noticed, however, that the amount of time spent around technology isn’t my only problem. One effect of my self-imposed technology limit was that I was trying to cram everything I usually do into less time. I was trying to rush through everything and absorb it all in far too little time. I can control the quantity of my internet usage, but how efficiently I was using it proved much more difficult. I think that technology itself isn’t what’s really to blame, but how we utilise it. Instant communication and nearly unlimited information- how could it be a bad thing? In reality, the availability of information is something that we don’t know how to deal with. As humans, we just aren’t capable of processing all of the information we throw at ourselves. Trying to keep track of hundreds of Facebook friends, reading cluttered Twitter feeds, watching viral videos and giggling at memes- though it all seems like mindless procrastination, it still takes brainpower. Even right now you are processing information as you read this post about how damaging excessive information is. Ironic.
Our technology is evolving faster than we are. We’re a species with increasing health problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, twitching eyelids, and rapidly increasing ADD diagnoses. We think this “progress” is helping us, but we’re not really sure how to deal with the information overload. We’re losing analytical skills because we can look anything up instantly, our conversational abilities are diminishing with each tweet that we send, our memories are disintegrating, and interacting face-to-face is getting more and more difficult.
It’s a losing battle, and not one that we can just walk away from. After my four days with basically no internet, I came back to 297 emails. Nothing catastrophic had happened while I was gone, but there were also dozens of things that required immediate attention and that I couldn’t just ignore. We are all involved in the technological world and there’s really no way to avoid it entirely.
I’ve been mostly successful in preventing a complete media overload by avoiding live television and trying to stay away from overly commercial locations like shopping malls. Keeping myself sane while working on my own computer has proven to be a lot more difficult though, especially given my current job as a content and social media manager. I still feel the need to read everything that could possibly be relevant to my life or job and stay somewhat involved with online communities, and I do check Facebook more than I would care to admit.
I’m pretty good at problem-solving, but this one continues to confound me. How do you avoid a technology overload? Do you just learn to cope?