Making the technology and information work for you.

Posted on Jun 10, 2010

Recent research has focused on the effects of being constantly “plugged in” to electronic media, email, phones and other sources of information and communications. This New York Times article is food for thought as you reflect on the effects of the never-ending flow of information and stimulation to which we subject ourselves.

The reality is the pace and volume of information is only going to increase. The gadgets used to access news and communications are only going to get slicker, more convenient and more habit-forming, addictive even. Cultural perspectives and news coverage tends to focus on the negative aspects of our at-the-tip-of-your-fingers, instant access, constant contact world.

Often we hear about the distancing and lack of empathy that may develop among people as they often interact remotely and not in-person. Or we see illustrations of individuals who feel they need more hours in the day to look at more screens. However, with a broader lens, the fact that we receive news from around the world instantly, are able to drop a text when we are running late or can Skype with the kiddos over dinner while 2,000 miles away is truly a marvel and a gift.

The challenge doesn’t lie with the technology itself, but, in fact, with how we each choose to integrate it into our lives.

While the research can certainly shed light on our experience, the most important perspective is your own. Examine your own use of gadgets and consumption of media. Some questions for consideration:

  • Does your use and consumption of media contribute to you feeling informed about the world or overwhelmed?
  • How much time do you choose to spend in front of a screen? Is that amount of time satisfactory or disruptive?
  • Do you have a purpose when accessing information or connections or do you have a habit of surfing or browsing?
  • How often have you experienced a feeling of “wasting time” and neglecting other priorities while in front of a screen?
  • Have others in your orbit felt distracted by your screen time or phone time?
  • How has your productivity been affected by the use of gadgets or consumption of information?

The most constructive and productive integration of electronic tools and consumption of information into your day-to-day experience is purposeful and mindful. Only you can decide what amount of time and nature of use helps you feel in balance. The balance that works for you depends on what you do professionally or how online your day-to-day life is. Totaling up hours is not the key. The key is examining if you and those friends and family in your orbit are satisfied with how you currently integrate the gadgets and information into the ebb and flow of life.

Purposeful, mindful use and consumption promotes productivity, connectedness and balance. Overuse of screens and gadgets, mindless habits or indiscriminate consumption of any and all information creates a mental hamster wheel that serves no one well. Consider these strategies for promoting healthy, mindful integration:

  • Limit mindless surfing and browsing.
  • Choose quality sources of news and information.
  • Set clear, healthy, safe guidelines for use of technology, such as no gadgets at meals and put them aside while driving.
  • Prioritize in-person connections when you can.
  • Have as much completely unplugged time everyday as you can and spend it in ways that feed your soul.

Focusing on the beauties and gifts our technological connections and conveniences give us while also being purposeful, mindful users and consumers can create quality integration and a balance that serves each of us well.