I’ve been taking random short breaks from Facebook during the last couple of weeks and I am surprised at how much more time I have now that I am accessing it less often. I knew that Facebook was turning into a time suck for me but I had no idea how much so. When that little bell bings to let me know there is a message waiting for me I turn into one of Pavlov’s dogs (luckily with a little less drool). That bell has conditioned me to respond… and it’s not just the Facebook bell, it’s also my email notifications, text messages and even the occasional phone call.
The electronics in our lives are conditioning specific responses from all of us with their incessant binging, beeping and ringing. It’s funny how easily and quickly you can get addicted to a little device that allows you to stalk your friends at any time, thus giving you the illusion of interacting with others but rarely giving you the actual connection you crave.
My oldest got an ipod touch two months ago and went from being online on an irregular basis to having to check the device as soon as possible once home from school. The rules about the laptop were easier to enforce than the rules about the portable device that has practically become an extension of the body. But who am I to talk? My device is in my bedroom at night and is the first thing I look at in the morning. But now that I am not the only one with a portable device in the house I am becoming more aware of my own usage habits.
I don’t feel like my devices own me yet but it is a future possibility if I am not vigilant. I’m 44 and I have concerns, what about the youth of today where growing up with personal electronics is just part of the norm? It will become ingrained in their lifestyles and no one will think anything of it.
But over-usage is usually the result of an addiction. In fact in 2010, 61% of people felt they were addicted to the internet. I doubt that number has gone down any since then or if it has then I’m sure that texting has more than made up for any decline.
Perhaps we already need self-help groups on how to live without your device 24/7. Or maybe there will be a future need for teaching moderation and balance when it comes to electronics. If nothing else, maybe we can start by turning off the notifiers that summon our immediate attention every once in awhile. I think that is my next step.