What did I do before my life got so reliant on information technology? From the moment I wake up until I stop and go to sleep, I’m amazed at how much my daily life revolves around various IT gadgets. Me?! Practically allergic to IT at the best of times, and almost always a reluctant, protesting and late adopter of any form of techno-gadgetry.
In fact, I’m living proof there is a third kind of person beyond digital natives (born into it) and digital immigrants (what it says on the box) usually recognised in the literature. I think digital conscripts should be a recognised category for folks like me. Those of us who take up, take on, and learn to adapt to and use IT-technology only because we have to.
Let’s face it, if a person wants to be able to relate to other humans for everyday contact, access or exchange information, and engage in commerce in our increasingly digitised lives, the choices are getting smaller every day. Like it or not, we all have to learn about IT-tech and how to use it, or suffer the consequences- isolation, and exclusion from access. Or move to a cave somewhere mythical.
Today, between my smart phone, my laptop, my desktop, the answering machine on my landline ( yes, I still use one of those), the fax machine (uhuh, I use one of those as well), or email, I feel like one of those balls in a pinball machine. In the course of one day, I bounce madly between my gadgets many times over. Looking. Checking. Sending. Checking. Reading. Responding. Checking. Waiting. Checking again. It’s a wonder I get anything else done! The time consumed chasing my IT gadgetry is enormous, and I am appalled at how easily distracted I become in the chase. “Maybe there’s something important?” I fret – and I check. Or “I’ll just take a couple of minutes to–“, and I’m still there on YouTube or Google twenty minutes later. Meanwhile, what I did mean to get done still remains undone.
A lot of checking. And I’m not, technically, prone to OCD.
Compared to most, mine is a very tame version of modern life. By now, you have no doubt noticed I didn’t mention any social media. That’s right. That wasn’t an oversight. Part of how I’ve chosen to try to cope with the IT-nami is to stay right out of the whole Facebook, Twitter, Instagram bla-bla-sphere.
Admittedly, I ‘miss out’ on family, friends’ and colleagues’ updates on social media. Given how overloaded I already feel in the face of my current levels of IT-saturation, I can honestly say I know I’d go mad(der) if I had to adapt to the additional level of input and demand for response that now passes for normal in the majority of peoples’ lives.
And speaking of ‘missing out’, I have to admit to waves of FOMO (fear of missing out) from time to time. But I think it’s more frustration, than fear of missing out, when I think about it. I sometimes feel frustrated when I can’t obtain information about an event or product, participate in a campaign, books to an event, or join a list because I don’t have a social media profile. But that’s about it! At those times, the do-I-care-enough factor gets to be the deciding factor that helps determine whether I’ll bother to work around the apparent exclusion. If it matters enough, I can get a friend who does have a face book account to get me the info, promote the campaign or make the booking. Or I can not bother. I figure: if they want to be so narrow in their options, they can do without my business, without me on their books.
But I don’t always have the option of going elsewhere. I hate the fact I’m increasingly unable to find a telephone number I can call to ask my question, register, book or buy something. Or report that a website is malfunctioning! Instead, I have to search the web, where I can get lost in what feels like an endless maze of frustrating loops of tags, pages, drop down menus and (not-so-helpful) FAQ lists.. Only to find all I can do when all else fails is write some frustrated gripey comment on said website, and wait, hoping someone will ‘get back to me’ by email in a workable time frame or resign myself to the fact I can’t resolve my issue. That sometimes means I go elsewhere to do business out of sheer frustration and resentment.
Unfortunately, there are also times when going elsewhere is not a solution available to me and I just have to put up with the breakdown of technology or IT bottleneck as best I can. Technology is great.. Until it’s not.
As a therapist, I have increasingly noticed the incursion of IT-tech on my clients’ lives. It’s there in the increasing sense of people reporting feeling driven by their tech gadgets; reporting anxiety if they ‘miss out’ on an update, a message; the intrusive presence of IT-tech in every moment of everyday life and the acceptance of this as the new normal; the complete blurring of boundary between work and private spheres and the resultant pressure to be available. These and many other issues specific to the presence of IT-technology in our lives will be issues I will address in future posts, along with suggestions for becoming aware of, limiting, managing and/ or changing the far-reaching impact of these issues on our everyday lives.
There are a number of useful books now beginning to address these issues. A good starting point is-
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, 2013, The Distraction Addiction.