We tend to think of tech balance as a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. What we may be overlooking is that tech balance has a tremendous impact on how we view the world, relate with others, and our cognitive abilities.
Our devices have been tremendous with expanding the breadth of our life. We can now be connected to more people, be exposed to more information, and have a constant stream of more entertainment. But every “more” comes with a tradeoff as each person only has so much time and mental space.
Embracing Tech without Being Engulfed
The reason I use the term “overplugged” is because tech can be embraced without being abused. The problem occurs when its use negatively affects other aspects of our life. It’s not a problem to be plugged in, but it is be overplugged. Tech balance is about embracing tech, but not being engulfed by it.
It’s easy to be engulfed by our devices. Nobody will ever “finish the Internet,” but that doesn’t stop us from trying. There are always new articles to read, new updates to comment on, and new videos to watch. We treat our online consumption as a race that can be finished, as opposed to the hamster wheel that it really is.
The true value of tech balance is that is helps maximize the human experience. We want to have the breadth that an online life offers, but also an adequate depth to our existence. Tech balance is about finding the sweet spot.
Quality thinking is an essential element to being human. We don’t just want to consume an endless array of factoids, but have the ability to find meaning in what we’re consuming. That requires a certain level of mental space for reflection; allowing information to turn into knowledge, which later can then turn into wisdom.
Information, which we are flooding in, provides answers to “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions. Wisdom answers the “why?” As T.S. Elliot wrote in The Rock, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in the information?”
In order to find wisdom in the age of Twitter, we need to master the ability in utilizing the Internet as a mind-blowing resource, while also being able to occasionally be removed and truly think. Instead of always searching Google, sometimes we have to search our noggin’.
A 2014 study by Virginia Tech looked at how smartphones impact conversation. The researchers were curious how the presence of smartphones during group conversations at a coffeehouse affected the perceived quality of the conversation. As you might imagine, participants rated conversations where someone used a smartphone as less engaged and more shallow.
Devices and social media are terrific at making and continuing connections. Living a life deeply, however, is about truly being present when those very “connections” are sitting across the table. A meaningful existence is not based on the number of Twitter followers we have, but more so the number of friends who are by our side when we need them.
Our Epiphany Moment
Being overplugged and unbalanced with our tech use is often hard to notice in ourselves. While others may point it out to us, it often takes a major happening (such as not having WiFi) to truly realize our reliance on devices. It is sometimes an accident that forces us to step away, but by stepping away we gain a newfound perspective.
My epiphany moment happened back in 2010, as I arrived at the courthouse for jury duty. My smartphone wouldn’t stop ringing. The only problem: I forgot my phone at home. What I was experiencing is called “phantom rings,” which is similar in nature to an amputee who feels the sensation of the missing limb. Has a device become as essential to our life as a limb?
That made me change. Have you had your epiphany moment?
Changing the Relationship
Tech balance isn’t about removing tech from our lives, but changing our relationship with it. It is about finding that beautiful sweet spot where we can use social media to get our friends together, but be unplugged while everyone is sitting around the table. It’s about finding the best restaurant in town to take your significant other out for dinner, and then truly connecting with them during the meal.
Tech balance is about maximizing the human existence and living life deeply. Are you living a life deeply?
Photo credit: Daniel Davis