Managing the flow of information, part 2

Feb 22, 2017

Or… Technology, we really need to talk…

A few weeks back we started a conversation in part 1 of this article about managing the veritable flood of information that seems to be an inescapable part of ‘modern’ life. How many of you felt, listening to that love song from a smartphone, that it truly was your device singing it to you?

As I admitted then, I have been mesmerized by the magic of modern technology. Most of the time, I’m quite happy with the balance I have in terms of time on and off my tech. If you’re happily in that space, good for you.

But there comes a point when it can be too much. So when you reach that point for you, what do you do?

How do we manage the flow of information in a world of 24/7 connection?

The Internal Battle

This is the tougher approach… learning to police yourself.

Let’s start with the question of motivation. Why you would choose to pick up or put down your mobile device? For example: one of the often discussed aspects of our sometimes unbalanced relationship with technology is FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. This is the idea that we become addicted to the feeling of always being connected. TIME magazine ran an excellent article on “The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out” that is well worth reading.  Among other things, it argues that “seeing friends and family regularly is the happiness equivalent of an extra $97,265 a year.” Not bad for motivation.

Less motivation and more practical steps, I’d also highly recommend this article by, Ann Douglas, CBC columnist, speaker, and author of Parenting Through the Storm, titled “How To Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed By Your Newsfeed

For those of us that stay connected for work as well as play, the issue can be more challenging. If staying connected is not technically a requirement of your job, it might mean taking a firm and potentially uncomfortable stand against the expectation that you answer work emails after hours. Or if the expectation is real, whether mandated or not, setting fixed windows of time to check in might be the solution.

The ultimate solution, though, could be as simple (or as complex) as making a conscious decision about whether you want to take charge. Ultimately, our technology is simply a set of tools.

External Controls

Having said all that about your will power and internal battles, there is nothing wrong with implementing externals controls to support your choices, and in some cases impose restrictions to help you in your struggle.

One useful function that many smartphone users may not be aware of is the “Do Not Disturb” function. On an iPhone, this is a setting that allows you to schedule periods of time when your phone will block incoming calls and texts. There are options to allow certain contacts to still call, so the parents amongst you, for example, could still be reached by your kids. There’s also an option to let through a call if they try calling twice within three minutes. Android-based smartphones have similar functionality built in.

External controls can also come in the form of social pressure and accountability. A house rule that all mobile devices go in a designated location during meals can help create shared offline time, although I would expect some initial pushback. Another idea that has been making the social media rounds, although I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing it, suggests that when going out with a group of friends you all agree that the first person to touch their device during the meal pays for the entire group.

But if you find you need to take some extreme measures, maybe consider a “digital detox” of some kind. We’ve noticed a trend of hotels and resorts offering packages that include turning in your mobile devices at check in. Or if you’re free June 23-27, 2017, you might want to consider Camp Reset, an adult summer camp that is “one part re-living the glory days of camp, and one part break from our never-ending notifications.”

Next steps…

So you think you need to make a change? Here are some next steps that you can take to try and get your tech usage under better control…

  1. Track your usage: Make a list of what tech you use and when. Then label whether each of those items makes you happy or unhappy. Is some of your usage simply habitual?
  2. Start slow: If you literally have your mobile device with you 24/7, pick a time to put your phone down for 15 minutes, then build up your time from there.
  3. Find a naturally unconnected activity: Maybe it’s a yoga class or some other sports activity.
  4. Find an accountability partner: Peer pressure works. Find someone who will check in with you and consistently ask if you’ve been living up to your unwired goals.
  5. Take a vacation from parts of your electronic life: Maybe you don’t need to cut yourself off everything, just cut back on some. For example, try removing the Facebook app from your phone, but leave it on your computer at home.

But the biggest thing is just making a conscious decision to make a change. Good luck!


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