Are You in Need of a Digital Diet?

12 clues that you’ve moved from a healthy use of all things tech to digital addiction.

One night last week both of my twenty somethings, my husband and I all made it home for dinner. In celebration of the uncommon occurrence, we dusted off the kitchen table and sat down for a meal. After which, we deposited our tired selves in the family room where my husband and I shared space on the couch with the dog. The offspring lounged across the room in comfy chairs.

Sounds very Norman Rockwell, right? The difference is in the details. The TV was on. Four cell phones sang, buzzed and dinged from various tables. And each one of us fired up our laptops and started scanning, scrolling, and typing communication to the universe outside of the house. This is a family that is fully and completely plugged in.

I’ve read the studies claiming the internet is re-shaping our brains and shrinking our attention spans. I’m familiar with the warning that anxiety disorders, insomnia and panic attacks can be linked to the overstimulation inherit in our society’s information obsession. Maybe because we are not a family of anti-social introverts, gamers, or a techno-geeks; I haven’t felt the studies were talking about us personally. However, I’m willing to admit that I might be overly fond of my cell phone and my daily verbal interaction to texting ratio is often stilted toward the latter. So, over the next few days, I started to take note of our household digital behavior to get a handle on whether we are, in fact, in need of a digital detox.

My personal study yielded the following list of clues that you and/or your family have catapulted across the divide between compulsive technology use and full-blown digital addiction.

1. While at a party you pretend to be looking for pictures of your family vacation to share with the group, but you’re really checking your email/twitter/Facebook.

2. You’re out to diner with the girls but only half participating in the conversation occurring realtime while you hold a texting conversation.

3. You’re so used to having earbuds in your ears, you don’t notice when they’re not attached to anything.

4. You tell your spouse you are putting your blackberry on the bedside table to use as an alarm, but you really want to have it handy to check email if you wake up in the middle of the night.

5. When you wake up in the morning you check your email before getting out of bed.

6. You keep Facebook open and running in the background of your PC because you might miss a critical post in the lag time of opening and closing the app.

7. You have a clutching sensation in your stomach and an increased level of anxiety when you hear the words “The cabin doors are now closed. All electronic devices must be turned off.”

8. As the theater lights are dimming and the movie previews start rolling, you shrink down into the space between the seats trying to get one last email out.

9. Setting the table for dinner means putting out plates, glassware and silverware
with enough space in between for everyone to plop down their cell phone.

10. You adjust your wardrobe to accommodate carrying your cell phone.

11. You’ve acquired phantom ring tone disorder – You hear your cell phone going off in your purse and scramble to retrieve it, only to discover it wasn’t ringing.

12. The only articles you’ve read about the need to unplug from technology have been online.

Learning the Street Value of Letting Go

Yoga has changed a lot about how I interact with the people around me and how I react to situations.  It’s very fulfilling to realize I’m not taken off balance in a moment when I might have become fearful or angry in that past.  However, there are other times when I find myself to be decidedly un-yogic.  Hurricane Irene gave me a week without lights, air-conditioning, internet access or hot water.  Living in a town with huge, old, oak  trees that loose branches in wind, rain and snow storms; we’ve had plenty of power failures.  In the past we’ve been dark for 10 minutes to 2 days.  A week is a record.

My immediate reaction when the lights went out was to sit and wait for my world to re-illuminate.  Any minute now.   Ten minutes later, resignation set in and I followed through on the preparations I’d made: grab the flashlights, light the candles, pretend to read Yoga Journal…..but my real focus was on waiting for the lights to come on.   Surprised that the lights were still out when I went to bed, my first cogent thought the next morning was, “I HAVE to have power today.”  The next two days became a pregnant pause of tension.  A void of waiting, and thinking “I HAVE to get power this morning.”     “ I’m sure I’ll get power this afternoon.”   “ Pleeeease let me get power tonight.”   “It’s not possible that I’d have to take another ice cold shower today.”  As each deadline passed without success, I felt my non-yogi nerves fray.   Finally, on the third day I stopped resisting.  The fact that the power was not coming on in my timeframe, and that I had no control over when it would come on, sunk in and I accepted it.  Immediately, the tension melted and I could get on with the details of life without lights and hot water.

It occurred to me after the fact that I had just re-experienced an old lesson.  It wasn’t the lack of electricity that had caused me to feel frazzled and frustrated.  The tension was the result of my resistance.  Every moment spent wishing things were different caused anxiety, discomfort and suffering.  When I finally settled in, and accepted the situation, I could move through each day, making whatever adjustments were necessary, and still feel centered.  Another opportunity to break-through.