An issue that comes up more frequently in my therapy practice is the impact of communication technology and the internet on emotional, psychological and relationship health. The seduction of these tools, though helpful in a myriad of ways, is proving to be increasingly problematic. As a therapist, I’m experiencing first-hand the consequences occurring for people in disruption to relationships via distractibility and inattentiveness – as well as individual struggles with compulsive e-mail checking, social networking site checking and other what I refer to as “rabbit holes” that technology has created for us. As someone who is very connected to this technology myself, I can also relate to the problem potential.
It is ultimately up to us whether we jump into those rabbit holes and if we do, that we can get ourselves out unscathed; without the personal and relational problems I’ve indicated.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, people are indeed paying a price for their involvement in technology. “The technology is rewiring our brains,”said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists.
She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess.
So how does one practice self-care in an increasingly technology-dependent world? Here are a few ways:
- Take technology breaks. If you’re able to unplug and shut down for a few minutes, do it. Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. If you can, take a quick stroll outside to bring down any increased physiological response you may be having in the moment with technology overload.
- Set self-imposed limits. Check your e-mail or social networking sites at certain times of the day only. Watch the time when you’re surfing online and allow yourself a set amount of time. The idea is not to slip down the “rabbit hole” I mentioned earlier – and if you do, at least be able to climb out.
Be mindful that over-use and obsessiveness with “checking, looking and searching” can negatively impact your emotional and relationship health. Be on the lookout for unhelpful consequences related to these activities – in your personal life or relationships.