The joy of unplugging from our tech-stressed lifestyles
I like technology. I like the fact that technology allows me to be an actor for a living. You see, without technology like television, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Yet there is something sinister about the way technology is changing our lives.
I sometimes think that each new marvellous technological invention gives us yet another reason to spend less time with each other.
To start with, let’s look at email. It’s a pretty amazing thing email, as it completely revolutionised the way we do business in the world today.
However, I know mates who will send a colleague a question via email, when their desks are right next to each other. What ever happened to good conversation?
I must be the only guy in this country not on Facebook. I just think it’s better to actually have lunch with someone, rather than sending them a virtual sandwich.
Text messages are another technique we use to avoid connecting with each other. I’ve certainly been guilty of this one. Why is it that we flick each other fifteen text messages when we could have said it all over the phone in a matter of minutes? Or, even better, over a coffee.
And why do we send each other a virtual eCard on borthdays, instead of having dinner and sharing good times.
At the end of the day, it’s breaking down our interpersonal relationships.
I remember when I was younger, science fiction comics would see the future full of technology designed to make our lives easier, leaving us more time for play, more time for socialisation.
Yet this appears to not be the case. Thanks to technology we can now work faster and for longer hours than we have for decades.
Australians work some of the longest hours in the OECD, and technology now affords us the ability to keep on working, even when we get home. We are now contactable 24/7, and can now even get our emails at home. But why can’t we just switch off and spend some time with family and friends?
Data shows that Australians are more stressed than Americans, even during their recent economic melt down. On top of this, around 10 million Australians are experiencing high levels of stress, the sort of stress that can have detrimental affects to our mental and physical wellbeing.
Even our non-working home time is being sucked up by so-called “social networking” sites like Facebook, where we chat and interact through LCD screens, instead of in-the-flesh.
Add to this the brand new phenomenon of internet addiction, with online games like World of Warcraft or online gambling. I know people who spend more time online gaming than the total time spent with their partners, kids, friends and at work.
What ever happened to kicking a ball around the park?
Recently, my wife and I decided to turn off our television for a whole week, as an experiment. We were very surprised to find that our relationship with our kids changed in this short time period.
Rather than being in the way of our entertainment, the kids actually became our entertainment. They became the focal point, instead of the box in the corner.
What also amazed us was the reduction in stress and tension in our home, because to begin with, the kids were getting the attention they needed and we were happy to give it without distraction. Kids act up when we are focussed away from them and TV takes 100% of our attention.
Now I know that not everyone can turn off the TV for a whole week, but what about just one day a week, or even an hour each night. Better behaved kids, less tension and a reduction in stress is certainly a good reason to try it.
At the end of the day, rather that assist us in reducing our work load and making our lives easier, sometimes I feel like our technology is controlling us and leaving us stressed, isolated, and lonely.
Lifeline recognises this, and is calling on everyone to take a day off stress and dedicate a day to having fun together.
I encourage you all to visit stressdown.org.au and get involved in this important campaign.
On the 23rd of July, turn off your BlackBerry, switch off your computer and do something truly interactive with your friends or colleagues. And while you’re at it, donate to Lifeline and help them continue to connect Australians with care when we need it.
I believe the key here is connection. We all need to disconnect from our addiction to technology and reconnect with each other, for at least one day a year.
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