In today’s cyber driven world, there’s an ever increasing need to be very clear on what we want and need to keep out from our ‘feeds’ AND how much we are willing to allow in, because technology is here to stay and increasingly the servant it once was, is turning into the master of our domain.
Is it time to consider setting up intentional boundaries around technology? If so, what kind?
When I think of boundaries or have the need to establish one, I tend to think in terms of lines in the sand or lines in stone. Meaning, do they serve as a guideline rule that’s flexible or is this a line we don’t cross (or move). Ever. Then I think about what it is that I want to achieve with a boundary – what’s it protecting.
Why technology? Because it’s a much-used tool of the majority. From keeping track of our children in school, to the workplace and beyond. We have it, we use it, it’s omnipotent, and it can absolutely drain us through its seduction, because there’s potential for leaks around every turn.
But we can’t stop the leaks and drain on our lives if we don’t plug up the holes, and what’s needed to plug up the holes are limits to what we will allow to go through – in other words – boundaries.
We need boundaries before burnout.
WHY we’re in a burn out:
Too many of us are now technology driven and our bodies are in a hyper adrenaline state all day long. It’s like the equivalent of seeing a bear in the woods. All. Day. Long. We see bears when we check through our social media feeds, our emails, ads, our news, our lack of anonymity because we carry our phones with us EVERYWHERE, and sadly, the gaming that has way too many adults, and especially our children just plain addicted. And yes, addiction is the right word here. You name it, our society is now filled with fast sound bites and imagery that capitalizes on our attention and in many ways has outpaced common sense and certainly morality.
We are now living in an aptly renamed attention economy.
There are key reasons why boundaries around technology are smart (and necessary) to establish. Meaning, put the phone down, walk away from the computer, get off-line and unplugged with intention (be the example for your kids). One prime reason to unplug is because the act of ‘checking’ our messages, feeds, and gaming becomes habitual AND we now know technology habits are coming with a side (sometimes heavy side) of added stress, anxiety, and depression. Let me explain…
As creatures of habit, what we do habitually we strengthen to the point of auto-pilot. We need to, or we wouldn’t be able to function in lives filled with so many decisions throughout our days. Not so bad if we want to remember how to function in our lives, like brushing our teeth, driving our cars, or getting dressed for example. But with technology, the habits have different effects, because we’re not intentionally driving this beast necessarily AND it’s designed to keep us coming back for more – and we do.
Many of us have developed the unconscious habit of ‘checking’ our messages repeatedly. Like to the average tune of 85 times per day – what are we looking for? We scroll through endless media feeds whenever we get a moment, we play games till we drop (or in the case of many of our kids are forced to stop). All of this is causing us to have shorter attention spans, spikes of hormones like the adrenaline, and stress inducing cortisol, and shifting us further and further into auto-pilot mode with technology.
Science is increasingly revealing side effects of too much tech time, and it’s proving to be mind-altering and potentially dangerous – especially for young minds. That’s because young brains and their executive functioning (think rational minds) are not fully developed until 20-something. They can’t always deflect negative content because it slips into the brain unfiltered. YIKES!!!
What’s the solution?
Set intentional boundaries around technology by consciously ‘checking in’ and asking yourself “What am I looking for?” and “Is it necessary or am I acting out of habit?”
If it’s around gaming, then set time limits (and stick to them). If it’s for your children, consider limiting the number of days they can play. For example, in my house, I refuse to pay for games. There will be no seduction from x-boxes and the like, because I won’t even open that door (my choice). And my kids can only play online games with their friends on weekends, before noon, and then it’s for no more than a few hours max. Again, these are my rules, and even though they’re subject to change, it would most likely be with less time, because I can see and most importantly FEEL the change in my children after they’ve been online gaming. It’s notable and I’m not liking it.
Now let’s talk about cortisol production which is another key reason why we should be intentional with our actions and set boundaries around our technology use and truly control the flow. When we are busy getting stimulated by our technology, our cortisol levels (stress hormone) go up. This is just the nature of our physiology in reaction to stimulus. And when cortisol production goes up and stays up because we’re habitually activating it, our propensity to gain weight increases too. That’s because when cortisol puts our bodies in fight or flight states (think bear in the woods) we’re busy fleeing. And when we’re busy fleeing, we aren’t resting.
It’s only in the rest and digest state that our biochemistry can effectively metabolize and absorb nutrients to digest food properly. Let me underscore effectively here, because we’re still digesting, but it’s from a different biochemistry, one that’s cortisol driven, and increasingly chronic in our society. We will never receive the full benefits of nutrients from our food in that biochemistry. In fact, a chronic cortisol induced biochemistry creates a host of additional side effects like increased inflammation, changes in respiration, and it even effects our vision. The list goes on, but what’s important to remember here is that we’re integrated whole beings. What we do in one area of our life inevitably affects another.
This really is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how technology is influencing our behaviors and society. There’s much more to explore here and consider as we move through our days. Now I want to leave you with a few tools for boundary setting around technology.
Managing energy versus time is really what it’s all about. Understanding that our energy is our life force and it’s precious is why we need to be protective of our boundaries around it. It’s liquid gold. Managing this is essential.
A few good tools to use to figure out if and where boundaries are needed around technology are these:
Pay attention to how you feel in your body and mind as you’re on your technology.
If you’re like me and create blocks of time for technology, take note of how you feel going in and leaving. Notice your breath, scan your body for tensions, think about the cadence in your thoughts.
Ask yourself always, what is my motivation for doing this?
Will this activity enhance my sense of wellbeing in my life or detract from it?
When in doubt, just unplug and see how you feel about it. If you’re more relaxed, great! But if you’re anxious because you don’t have it available to you, it’s a good invitation to dig deeper as to why. Many people (especially kids) have shown sides of withdraw and severe anxiety when their phones (or technology) are taken from them. Is this really what we intended when we allowed the habit to develop?
As a special note here, because it’s near and dear to me as a parent raising three little people, remember, our kids are still being formed and brains are developing, so habits at this stage are just the normality’s of life. Parents, it’s your job to be aware of their ‘normal’ and set the boundaries for them. They haven’t developed their full spectrum of awareness. Don’t expect them to do it on their own just yet.
Need more help around what your next right step is? Contact me and we can figure it out together.