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Can you kick the addiction?

August 2, 2010

Everyone’s An Idiot has a timely piece today reminding me about the importance of scheduling in some time away from technology. Author Pete Faint is taking baby steps first. He’s setting himself the goal of just one day. He’ll report back on Wednesday, we’re advised.

I have the same problem as him. My connection with technology starts soon after I wake up. There’s normally something to check my emails, Twitter and Facebook on in the kitchen while I make the first cup of the day. I’ll use my iPad on my way in to work whether I’m a car or on the tube. I’ll use my work PC to do all sorts of stuff during the day and after I’ve made it home I’ll invariably have some device on my lap during the evening.

I’m not unusual I know. Many of the people I connect with on the internet do the same as me. Indeed, it’s possibly because they too use the internet to the same extent I do that I make a point of conversing with them using these tools. And that is a little scary, it strikes me. It’s a mixture of social interaction – which at times can be a little overwhelming in the personal demands I place on it – and a perception that this might help my career. I’m prepared to be that upfront about it.

Unlike Pete, it’s not the technology itself I have a problem with, more the things its enables me to do. Blogging, tweeting, making videos. It’s all community building. Whilst the process of publishing something is pleasurable in itself – if it wasn’t, I’d be insisting I got paid for it by now – it is the sometimes never-to-be-spoken-of hope underpinning it which has the potential of being the most destructive.

HomeworkI’m thinking this at this point in time because I’m revisiting an excellent book called “Change Your Thinking”. I had it bought for me a couple of years ago as a way of trying to combat the regular bouts of daily self-analysis I engaged in at the end of my working day. As soon as the cogs stopped whirring around – normally around the time I stopped doing something (anything) with my hands – that’s when the analysis would kick in. It would normally result in quite a negative view of the world.

One of the simplest steps outlined in the book is to provoke the reader into monitoring personal reactions to events around him or her. It helps stop the hard-wired thought processes in our minds before they take us on a destructive path, by delivering a counter-message to the brain.

Whilst that sounds all very ‘self-help’, the truth is that it does – for the most part – work. And, because it works I’ve found myself understanding that those same thought processes are triggered by all sorts of things around me.

Specifically, if social media is about interacting with people – whether its publishing a blog post and waiting for responses back or engaging in conversation on a global chat network – then it too can be a trigger to negative thought. And if it has that potential its also something which needs managing – not the interaction, but more the motivation behind and the effects of it.

OK, so it’s hardly the most earth shattering observation. But having said that, I’m of the mind that maybe quite a lot of people may not be aware that we’re all susceptible to the effects of such thought processes, especially in a world where we’re able – if we choose to – to interact with considerably more people than we ever did in the past.

How do we cope with that? What techniques do we as human beings need to adapt or adopt in order to manage that increase in noise?

Of course, one possibility might be to cut ourselves off from the likes of social media. For me that feels worse than having my electronic devices taken away from me. It would be like having my hands chopped off. Little wonder the period of tendinitis was a bit of a worry.

I work in the media industry, an industry which despite the threat of cuts and radical funding changes still offers opportunities to those of us in our late thirties who still have a tendency to dream a bit. Not having the channels open to me I’ve become accustomed to over the past few years would be like a massive brick wall being built up in front of me. It’s unthinkable.

But maybe I need to think about it. Because the negative aspects of being connected so much can be exhausting. And maybe one place to start is to drastically reassess what it is we can effectively achieve through social media. Even if success at social media usually demands a certain amount of oneself permeates through, maybe it’s time to mark out the boundaries just a bit more. Because when I’ve done that, I’m almost certain divorcing myself from technology from time to time will be a relatively painless process.

Do you suffer from the same sort of addiction? How would you go about dealing with it?

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