Technology: Destroyer of Dreams

I live alone and I am not self-motivated. Add high-speed Internet and a computer to that mix and hours of unproductive time in front of a screen easily ensue. I get up every morning and go out for a coffee. While in the car on the way to and from the coffee shop, my mind teems with ideas, but by the time I get back and plop down in my computer chair, the ideas all but vanish, along with the motivation that had seemed so promisingly potent just a few minutes before.

Today, I am noticing and observing my urge to surf the net, to repeatedly check email and Facebook, and to peruse flight deals on Kayak for trips I am NOT taking. I am in this moment plagued by that funk, that slightly sunken mood that renders me unproductive. I have notions about working on my book and brainstorming video scripts, but I don’t have that oomph that creative writing requires. I almost never have that oomph! This is the battle I struggle with every single day.

The ease of access of technology makes the battle harder to win, because the Internet soothes me by giving me something “satisfying” to do that I don’t have to work for, and that I can reliably do even when I am in the deepest of funks. When I click to refresh my inbox, there is a subtle and instantaneous anticipation that a new message could arrive. I feel that in my gut, a subtle sensation of expectation. If no new, non-spam messages arrive, I can check Facebook to see if there’s a new notification, friend request or interesting newsfeed piece. I might even espy an article that outrages me, and then I can get energized to respond. If these two sites provide no satisfaction, I go to LinkedIn, and check out stories about business and read articles on how to find a job, even though I am not looking for one.

Technology makes many aspects of my life easier, but it also messes with my mind. I have click-itis, that disease that warps the mind by giving instant satisfaction via a micro movement of the index finger. I can sit and click for hours upon hours, and I cannot, or do not, stop!

For me, technology quickly becomes addictive; it harms me by distracting me from what I really want to accomplish. I continue this behavior in spite of the negative consequences, which are nothing short of destroying, or at least delaying, my dreams. When I merrily click away, I am not writing; I am not doing the hard work of distilling my message; I am not in integrity with myself or the people who look to me for guidance. My relation to technology has an impulse-control aspect, because I often “play” online for hours, when I had simply gone on the computer to check and respond to email for fifteen minutes. Technology wastes my times, and lays waste to my dreams.

Here are some signs that you, like me, might have a problematic relationship to technology.

1. Time warp: inability to determine screen time.
2. Changes or disruptions in sleep.
3. Emotional disturbance when you are deprived of the screen.
4. Withdrawing from family and friends in favor of the screen.
5. Suffer from backache, carpal tunnel syndrome, stiff neck, nerve pain, eye strain, “texting thumb.”
6. Persistent inability to cut down.
7. Ever-increasing amounts of time spent in front of the screen
8. Prefer the screen over family and friends.
9. Household tasks and responsibilities are left undone because of too much screen time
10. You are afraid that without your phone or Internet access, you might “miss something.”
If you exhibit a few of these, I recommend a techfast, for which I will provide detailed information in next week’s blog. Technology sends my life out of balance. A techfast helps remedy that situation.

NOTE: This blog post started because I was pissed at myself for being in a funk. I simply decided to be honest about my internal process, and I also let the anger power me through. After having written this, I am 90% out of the funk, but beset with a strong urge to go back now and check email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I can do that if I set a timer. Five minutes, no more!

Step Away from the Computer: Exit the House, Now!

I just completed an article for a guest blog post I committed to. An impulse rumbles in my abdomen: PLAY A GAME. I feel energized by having finished an article, but yet have a powerful urge to piss away that energy playing a video game. “I deserve it,” the powerful voice that seems to live in my abdomen tells me.

After finishing the last sentence, I eyeballed the “Steam” icon on my taskbar. Steam is the game-hosting site I, and most game-addicted people around the world, use to indulge our compulsion. I can choose from hundreds of different games. I’m not going to do it, but if I stay in the house, that could quickly change, so right now, I am going to get in my car and drive somewhere. I need new sheets and have several items to return to Lowe’s. I will go to the shopping center immediately, and will report back below. When the urge to game, or mindlessly surf the Internet, hits me, I just need to get out, as if there were a gas leak or fire inside of my house.
[Two hours later]
I purchased the sheets, Peacock Alley brand. The saleswoman told me, “These sheets are like silk at one-fifth the price.” I could not argue with that logic, so I bought them. It was at a closeout store called Tuesday Morning, so they were at a deep discount. My other sheets had a huge coffee stain that I could not remove (Stains, another under-reported hazard of ADHD!).

Anyway, I went out and did something that needed to be done, then came back and did a load of laundry. If I had stayed home, I would have gone into cyber communion with my computer screen and wasted away the whole evening without handling any of the details of my life. I find that forcing myself to do one thing helps fuel me to do others, but I have the type of ADHD that causes this apathetic funk to take hold of me. When it grips me, I find it almost impossible to take action. Over the past decade, however, I have become increasingly successful at breaking the pattern. I stay away from technology long enough for balance and reason to reassert themselves.

Luckily, I do not get an addictive charge from playing games on my smart phone, so I dodged a bullet there. If you are a Candy Crusher, Clash of Clans, or Fruit Ninja junkie, leave your phone behind. Leaving our phones behind is a good way to have a mini “techfast.” I do a 3-day techfast every month and my best ideas and most productive writing come during these times.
It is really difficult to balance technology in our lives. So, learn to say no to technology and consider doing a techfast. STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER!

Kevin’s Top Five Family Technology Tips
1. Have at least some tech-free time as a family. Don’t allow smart phones at the dinner table, for example.
2. In addition to tech-free time, have tech-free zones. Many families I work with choose to use the family room for this purpose. Cell phones, video game consoles, laptops, iPads, and computers are not allowed in there.
3. Set a maximum time allowed on video games and the computer. I recommend no more than two hours a day.
4. For each minute spent on the computer or video game, require a corresponding minute of exercise. This will allow you to combat the tendency for technology to create sedentary and obese children.
5. No TV’s, computers, or video game consoles in the bedroom.