The Problems with Technology and How to Avoid Them

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At The Daily Mac View, we don’t just love Apple products — we love technology. Technology connects us with our readers. It allows us to communicate faster than any of us could’ve ever imagined. It even helps us implement the GTD methodology.

But for all its benefits, technology comes with many downsides. For one thing, it makes us psychologically dependent. (Try working without a computer or Internet access — you’d probably throw your hands up in despair. The again, if it was 3pm on a Friday, you might rub in hands in anticipation of an early weekend).

child with computer

children playing

Children should be encouraged to use technology, but clear boundaries should be established. Playing with other children is as important, if not more.

Yet in many cases, we could continue to work if we wanted to. We could draft an email by hand, for example, or pick up the phone, or (the horror) meet a colleague face to face.

There are other problems. Some are well documented, such s the fact that technology makes us work longer hours. Many people check their email first thing in the morning and through the entire day, often checking one more time before they go to bed. This makes them feel exhausted and unable to concentrate. Worse, it’s not even an effective way to work. (More on that later.)

Less known are some of the effects technology is having on our bodies. The artificial light from TV and computer screens affects melatonin production and throws off circadian rhythms, preventing deep, restorative sleep. Computer vision syndrome (CVS) results from focusing the eyes on a computer display for uninterrupted periods of time. Symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, neck pain, redness in the eyes, fatigue, eye strain, dry eyes, irritated eyes, double vision, dizziness, and difficulty refocusing the eyes. Even sitting, now dubbed the new smoking, is a indirect result of technology.

Psychologically, heavy computer and cell phone use has been linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms in young adults. Socially interactive technology has been found time and again to reduce face-to-face social interaction, thereby sacrificing time spent with friends and family. Indeed, as quoted by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln paper titled “Technology and Its Effects on Teens’ Socialization,“ some scholars argue that the Internet is causing people to become socially isolated and cut off from genuine social relationships ”as they hunker alone over their terminals or communicate with anonymous strangers through a socially impoverished medium.” Youngsters are disproportionally affected due to the lack of a physical context; even their writing skills are compromised because texting leads to too many abbreviations.

My own case: A cautionary tale

I’m only 37 years old, but in terms of my lifelong exposure to technology, I feel like I’m 50. That’s because I was born and raised in Havana, Cuba, where it’s not just the cars that are antiquated. Growing up, I didn’t enjoy the kind of access to technology that North Americans take for granted.

For example, it took my family years to get a landline installed. (When it was, the phone had a rotatory dial.) We were not allowed to have a computer at home, so I learned to type on a typewriter. (Years later, my father, after much loop jumping, received permission to buy a computer — one we were legally not allowed to use to surf the Internet). I only got to use a cell phone when I moved to Europe. I was 24.

Like most of my countrymen, I resented these limitations. So when we finally fled, I was quick to embrace technology, studying a digital communications program, becoming an Apple user and browsing the Internet for hours that went by in a minute. I went from near computer illiteracy and limited exposure to technology, to full-on immersion in the digital world.

You would think these things made me happy — and they did. But in time, I realized that limited access to technology wasn’t all that bad. I was definitely less stressed in my pre-Internet days, and when I was stressed, it was out of the kind of frustration that comes with living in an oppressed country, not because my Internet speed was slow or because Netflix was down.

I also slept longer and better hours. I didn’t feel like I was expected to be “on” all the time. I talked to more people. I watched less TV. Life felt relaxed. So although today you’d have to pry my iPhone from my cold, dead fingers, I now understand how important is it not to rely on technology too much.

Here’s how I do it.

How to make the most of technology in a healthy way

  1. Set boundaries. When you work, you work. When you read, you read. Resist temptations to switch back and forth between applications and means of entertaining yourself. I’ve seen people watch TV while they type on their smartphone while they chat with someone else. Don’t be that person.
  2. Control email rather than the other way around. This I picked up from Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. He recommends, if memory serves, to check email only twice a day, always at the same times.
  3. As everybody relies increasingly on email, using the phone and face-to-face interactions make you stand out. That’s because people are more likely to remember you (and your requests) if you come to them, or at least phone them. As a bonus, it’ll do you well to stand up and walk.
  4. Avoid screens and TVs an hour before going to bed. If you must use a computer, install f.lux, a free app that makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.
  5. Make a conscious effort to see your friends and relatives. A Facebook message, however quick and convenient, can’t compare with a chat over coffee or dinner. The former does nothing to strengthen your relationships or bring you happiness; the latter does all that, and more.