Do You Need To Unplug?

Do we need to unplug to be healthy? Or is technology good for our health?

Technology can do some amazing things. Whether we are advancing surgical techniques or increasing our ability to connect with others around the world, we cannot deny that tech permeates every aspect of our lives. What’s more? Technology and social media were pivotal for thousands when it came to coping with the ongoing pandemic! But, is there a time to unplug? Are we TOO connected? Read this article to find out!

Why It Is Good To Be “Plugged-In”

When discussing the value of technology, there are always two sides to the debate.

  1. Technology and social media is BAD and ruining people’s ability to connect face-to-face!
  2. Technology is amazing and wonderful, and there are absolutely no downsides.

At least, that’s what it sounds like.

Ultimately, like anything in this wide, wacky world, there is good and bad that needs to be considered.

Technology has brought a lot of hope to countless people across the globe.

We can be more connected with people we may never have met otherwise! Facebook allows me to keep in touch with people I met during field school in Sri Lanka! I can see how my high school classmates are progressing through their lives, and more than once, social media has been key to networking.

But technology is more valuable than that!

I know people with lung conditions who use fitness trackers to monitor their oxygen levels. Many of my friends and acquaintances use affordable mental health programs in the place of expensive therapy.

Video games increase hand-eye coordination while providing a healthy distraction for those in stressful situations!

I’m barely skimming the surface of the amazing things technology has managed in such a short time. The reality is that new inventions and programs make life more accessible for millions of people around the globe.

It connects us. Technology allows for new opportunities. It does help increase efficiency. In many ways, tech makes life easier.

But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Technology & Health: What We Need To Know

How can we unplug in a society that prides itself on being connected through technology?
Photo by Marvin Meyer

Given how pervasive technology is in our lives right now, it’s clear that it will have an impact on our health. The question is, what does that impact look like?

In 2010, C. Rowan released a paper exploring the apparent impacts of technology on children. In this article, they paint a very bleak picture, claiming technology:

  • Decreases children’s active play, which in turn leads to excess energy and is a risk factor for obesity
  • Increases stress levels, to the point where many children are chronically stressed
  • Limits human connection, ability to self-regulate, and school attentiveness

Rowan suggested that children under 2 years old should not interact with technology. Older children should not engage with technology for more than 1-2 hours per day.

This study was released over 10 years ago, and needless to say, it is difficult for anyone to spend 2 hours or less on some sort of technology. At this moment, I am writing on my laptop, while monitoring my phone AND email.

While it is difficult to limit, we cannot ignore the impact of technology on health.

For example, a 2013 article highlights the significant impact of cell phones on the sleep quality of college students. As their sleep quality was impacted by checking their phone in the middle of the night, these students put themselves at greater risk of depression and anxiety.

Technology can have negative effects. It does have addictive tendencies. However, I want to stress that it is HARD to not engage with technology. Especially, when we include television (or Netflix), school, work, and social engagement. For many, their whole lives are on the web. Why? Because we live in a society that necessitates that kind of interaction.

Can We Unplug When Society Is So Plugged-In?

So the question is, can we unplug? Or rather, how do we unplug when modernity requires our involvement?

For me, the act of stepping away from tech is one of the most important boundaries I have ever created. Many of us are conditioned to believe that we owe the world an explanation.

When Facebook asks you to update your job information, and other people sharing their personal problems and victories for the world to see, this idea is reinforced. One of the reasons (besides advertising my blog) that I re-launched my Facebook account was so I could seem more accomplished to future employers.

When I delete Instagram from my phone, I miss messages, photos, and events that I am expected to know about.

What we have to remember, is that we can opt-out. We are allowed to not engage with others. We do not owe anyone, any portion of our lives.

How To Unplug In _ Easy Steps

Stepping away from “screen time” is hard, and in many ways impossible.

However, we can choose to limit how much personal time we spend on screens.

  1. Firstly, learn where you can cut back. Obviously, when I’m at work, I can’t ignore my email. Likewise, if you or your child has online school, they cannot ignore it. On the other hand, the hours spent on your phone, watching TV, or browsing the internet after work? Perhaps that is an area that you can actively reduce screen time.
  2. Once you know where you can cut down, you have to be conscious of sliding back into old habits. For myself, I have to replace my “social media downtime” with something else. I read a book. Sometimes, I take on a new hobby like knitting or making soap. I talk to people around me, as I know human connection is essential.
  3. Understand that you a breaking a habit and that takes time. Sometimes, you need to hop on Facebook to check information for an event, but before you know it, you’ve been scrolling for three hours! Don’t worry! You are not alone. The creators of social media designed it to be addictive.
  4. Schedule your screen time. Maybe there is a show you want to watch, or perhaps you need to check out for a bit. That’s okay. In fact, it’s natural. Checking your instagram feed is not inherently bad. However, if you haven’t eaten dinner and it’s 9 o’clock, consider a timer. Set a timer for 10 or even 60 minutes. Then you have a set boundary for when that screen time needs to end.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Whether you spend time outside, or meditate, mindfulness promotes awareness of our thoughts and habits. This awareness facilitates change.

Remember, It’s Not All Bad To Be Plugged In

Overuse of technology can cause problems. I won’t deny that.

This is especially prevalent in young children, who cannot self-regulate and are often distracted using iPads, TV shows, or video games. Children need a well-rounded and interactive existence with the world for healthy development.

Outdoor play, reading, and socialization are integral to child development.

However, while too much screen time can result in “not enough” in other developmental areas, technology has many benefits! For example, technology can make museums, traveling, and hikes more accessible. Technology allows interaction where face-to-face interactions may not be possible.

Programs, apps, and websites give people access to the knowledge they would never have seen otherwise! I probably would never have learned how to make soap without Pinterest.

Social media gives people the opportunity to meet others across the world, facilitating networking and friendship. I am still in contact with a fellow student that I met while traveling through Sri Lanka on a field school.

So what’s the verdict? Is technology good? Bad? A necessary evil? Something to cut out of your life entirely?

Well, it all comes back to that famous quote:

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” – Oscar Wilde

Quote by Oscar Wilde: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” (goodreads.com)

Technology is neither bad nor good. How we use it, and how we let it use us, determines its impact. A person using a FitBit to measure their heart rate is alright, as long as that FitBit does not control their life. Playing WordScapes on your phone is mentally stimulating until you are neglecting other aspects of your life.

Technology can do amazing things! But, it is not all there is to life. Enjoy the sunshine. Smell the flowers. And remember, there is much more to happiness than the likes on that Instagram post.

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