Does our Technology control us?

Where is my cellphone, my IPAD, my laptop! How am I going to socialize!

Past technology for personal communication. (photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Our Daily Priority

What is the first thing you do after your alarm goes off in the morning? Even though we are still half asleep, the first thing most of us do is reach for our cell phones.

Wherever you are, look around you. How many people do you see staring at a computer or a cell phone screen? This is not just common in North America, but all over the world. People of all ages are being entertained more and more by a device. Some people have stated that, if they accidentally leave the house without a cell phone, they feel anxious, as if something major is missing.

Is there a Problem?

Technology simplifies and enhances our lives each day. We live in a fancy, high-tech world, where people cannot live without their smart televisions, cell phones, computers, and other devices. It is impossible to measure how much we use technology in different ways each day.

Technology is constantly improving and doing more impressive things, and it has had a huge impact in the field of education. With the help of technology, students can learn on a global scale without leaving their classrooms or homes.

Throughout my years spent in education, I used technology in my science lab as an extra teaching tool, as well as a means of keeping parents updated, but let’s face it: technology also has its disadvantages. The constant online connection and ability to instantly communicate with anyone at any time may have begun to create stress in our lives.

Everywhere we go, we cannot seem to escape them, whether we are at the doctor’s office, the grocery store, or the mall — those sounds and buzzes all around us that are constantly alerting people about the arrival of new messages, new e-mails, or new “likes” on social media. Many of you, including myself, feel compelled to view and respond to those messages and notifications quickly. We seem to have forgotten what it feels like to live without a cell phone.

In our society, people have become slaves to devices that were supposed to make life easier and less stressful. Some of us could even have an addiction.

Ask an Expert

I have read many articles and done research about the subject, but I wanted to hear more on the matter from an expert. Just recently, I contacted a psychologist. I asked Licensed Professional Counselor Dennis Ramos the following question: “do you think there is such a thing as being addicted to or co-dependent on technology, specifically cell phones?” This is what he had to say.

“In my work as a therapist and counselor, I have known many, many people who use technology without any problems. Computers, TVs, and cell phones are essential to most of our lives these days. However, I have seen quite a few cases where technology has created problems, both for the individual, and also for a person’s relationships.

“Your question is about addiction, which we consider a dependency. A dependency generally means that a person will experience some kind of emotional and/or physical reaction from the removal, loss, or lack of a particular thing. The emotional reaction can be anxiety, depression, grief, or anger. Physically, a person can feel tense, agitated, or unable to relax or sleep.

“Addictions and dependencies most often involve other underlying complex psychological or emotional problems, as well. Most of us have seen the reactions of kids when we put away their video games or turn off the TV and send them to bed. These dependencies are not usually a serious problem, but I have known children who become violently upset or distraught when these activities are terminated. As for adults, there are many examples of addictions involving technological devices. These include online gambling, gaming, pornography, sports, shopping, Facebook, and many others. I have seen quite a number of people struggle with addictions, or dependencies to these activities. These have caused clinical psychological symptoms in some, and have ended marriages and relationships in some others.

“Your question is specifically about cell phones, and I believe this particular device can magnify these problems in certain people. The fact that the cell phone is with you almost 100% of the time can really strengthen the connection and dependency to the activities. This doesn’t happen so much with the computer or TV. Now you can have TV, gaming, porn, gambling, and all the other activities in your pocket or purse.

“In addition, cell phones also offer you the added activities of texting, taking and sharing photos, and other social media such as Twitter. As I said earlier, most of us are not going to have problematic addictions or dependencies to our cell phones, but the answer to your question is yes, there is such a thing as being addicted (or clinically dependent) on a cell phone. I have worked with a number of people with cell phone addictions. It is not extremely common, in my opinion, but it is not that uncommon either.”

Technology Gets Personal

Technology and social media are affecting the way we interact and communicate. No one seems to be engaged in a face-to-face conversation.

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.” –Steven Spielberg

As a child in Naples, I remember how people in my neighborhood would often chat from their balconies in the morning while sipping their steamy espresso. Nowadays, even if you are talking with your best friends, no one seems to pay attention or make eye contact. Our minds are constantly distracted, because we are too busy looking at a device to get the latest news from around the world.

There was a park not far from my elementary school, Berlingieri, in Naples, Italy. That park was always beautiful, especially during those crisp, fall days, when elderly people would gather in the early afternoon to play bocce. On my way home from school with my grandpa I would always walk by them as they were chatting with each other and playing that game. They always looked happy and healthy. Nowadays, people seem to just have “virtual friends.” I often wonder how my beloved, late grandpa, Michele, would react to electronic mail, Google, and having friends on the Internet.

The Bottom Line

My grandfather always said that “in life, things happen for a reason.” On our recent vacation, once we arrived at our destination, I noticed that I was having trouble checking my e-mails. I was also unable to access the Internet. It was taking forever to just upload one picture to Instagram. I was super stressed. My international global plan was not working well.

My impatient spirit took over. Instead of getting on the phone and fixing things, I decided to unplug and be present, to enjoy my time with my family.

On our last day of vacation, as I was saying goodbye to Susy, my sister-in-law, I asked if she was on any social network. Her answer: “I own an old, outdated cell phone. I rarely bring it with me. I’m not on any social network either.” After hearing her say that, I suddenly felt inspired to do the same. I wanted to be like her, free and disconnected from it all. I wanted to keep my sanity.

Disconnected from technology. No this is not me in the picture. (courtesy of Unsplash)

How I Stay Disconnected

I found that the simplest way to disconnect was by adding more activities to my life. This may not be feasible for everyone, but I incorporated some extra steps into my morning routine that make it virtually impossible for me to hold my cell phone.

Some of my favorite things to do in the morning are meditate, practice yoga, do strength training, and play with Claudio, my new puppy. All these are wonderful, head-clearing activities that help me start my morning on the right track and in the right state of mind.

To avoid any misunderstandings with your friends while trying to stay disconnected, it is a good idea to let them know that you will not be responding to texts or e-mails immediately anymore. These days, doing something as seemingly innocuous as not responding to a text message as quickly as possible can cause the other person to think you do not want to talk to them.

My summer vacation this past summer. (My personal photo)

The Last Word

After my vacation, I started making mindful choices for myself. I try to avoid wasting time mindlessly browsing the Internet. As a writer, I only use my laptop to write. I do not anxiously check my e-mail every two minutes, or check who has a new update on my favorite social network. I feel like I can relax more because I no longer have the need to document what I am doing every minute of the day.

Life is beautiful, and it is happening right in front of our eyes, but we are constantly distracted. We forget that there is a power button on our devices.

I am determined to not be that person who could not live without her cell phone again. Life is already fast paced, and so much of our time is demanded by the world as it is. Why not take back some of what is ours?

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