By Dr. Melissa Estavillo
It comes at no surprise to the majority of us that technology has revolutionized the way we live our lives. For many of us, this change is a blessing allowing us to stay connected to friends around the world, manage multiple responsibilities within seconds, and be entertained at any moment. However, like with all good things, there is always the unintended negative effect. As a psychologist, I frequently talk with individuals and families regarding how technology is making parenting, relationships, and work life balance more difficult. It is influencing us in ways we don’t even realize.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to get away to the mountains in Washington State. It was beautiful, serene, and to my surprise left me completely disconnected from the digital world. While cell phone service and wifi are available almost anywhere, it is very limited on or near Mount Rainier. The experience of being disconnected was…um…interesting.
While it was surprisingly nice to not have a constant ding going off on my phone, it also felt very foreign. I am not unlike most Americans who frequently check their phone for email, messages, and contact with others. Being disconnected for a few days made it all the more apparent how much technology is woven into our hourly interactions. So let’s stop a take a second to see what the research says about our technology use and see if any of us are surprised by the facts:
- The average American spends 6 to 9 hours a day on some form of technology
- As most of use are awake 17 hours a day, approximately half that time is spent using technology
- Work norms and etiquette now expect us to check or respond to email quickly leading us to check our email 17 times a day or once every waking hour
- Most of us have 3 to 5 social media accounts and spend 1.5 hours a day browsing these networks. We also check these accounts once an hour
I am not necessarily advocating for a lifestyle devoid of technology or recommending that healthy people delete any form of social media. Much good has come from these resources. However, it is important for us to consider how much is too much and begin the conversation about how to find balance in our use of technology.