If you’ve been following us on social media, you know that I recently took a nasty spill. The result – I broke both of my feet. While that is unfortunate, the more interesting thing is how I broke them. I was in Charleston, visiting friends and we were walking together outdoors. I was walking, wearing somewhat impractical shoes, on a rocky path and I tripped. But, technology also played a role in the accident!
When I finally got settled in the ER, I looked at my phone. Then, I realized the last thing I was doing before I fell – checking my work emails. Basically, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking and I fell as a result. It got me thinking about mindfulness and technology. So, I thought I’d write about it. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to “keep your head up”! Read below for my summary of why you might try to disconnect from technology through mindfulness.
Mindfulness Can Help
We have talked about the positive impact of mindfulness before, on our site and on our podcast. One of the most important aspects of mindfulness is that it helps employees to stay focused on the present moment. That means that you’re not absorbed in what came before this moment or what will come after. In other words, you’re paying attention to the “now”. This is particularly important when it comes to managing technology.
Technology is a really useful tool that helps us to stay connected. But, in other ways, it also disconnects us. You might be out with a group of friends. But, if you’re checking emails or social media, you aren’t really present. For this reason, technology has both given us ways to become closer and ways to drift further apart.
If you’re more mindful, you may be able to use technology in ways that helps you to focus. For example, you might use it to search for an answer that you need to problem-solve on the spot. Or you might use it to call someone you’ve been texting with. That way, you can see them face to face and really focus on them. But, if you’re less mindful, you might use technology as a way to escape the present moment. For example, you might start checking social media while someone is talking to you. Or you might answer a work email while in a meeting about something else.
Technology Without Mindfulness Can Be Dangerous
It’s important to be mindful when approaching technology because using technology without also being mindful can have negative consequences. For example, drivers have been shown to be 20 times more likely to make potentially hazardous errors when texting. Some studies have even shown that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while drunk.
However, it has also been demonstrated that teenagers who are more mindful are less likely to text while driving. Workplace research has shown that, for those with more complex jobs, mindfulness increases both task and safety performance. This means that mindfulness might be a good solution to trying to stay focused on the moment. If you’re mindful, you’re not being distracted by what you’re missing out on elsewhere. While my fall happened while I was walking, the principal is the same. If you’re estranged from your immediate experience, you’re less likely to engage with it and more likely to make mistakes.
Technology Management Is Also About Emotions
However, many studies also show that it isn’t just mindfulness that helps make people more likely to ignore technology. They are able to do so because mindfulness allows them to better manage their emotions. For example, the teenagers who were driving and were also mindful were able to ignore distractions because they were less likely to feel the need to avoid unpleasant emotions. This means that these teens may have been able to ignore feelings of FOMO. In other words, they weren’t as concerned about the past or future. They were concerned about right now and the emotions they were feeling in the moment. So, they didn’t respond because they weren’t already feeling overwhelmed by their emotions.
Interestingly, while research on technology and mindfulness at work is scant, there is some work on how it impacts relationships in general. Focusing on technology instead of a relationship partner can have negative effects. This is especially true though, if you are anxious about your relationship to begin with. It’s also true if you don’t agree with your partner about how much to use technology. This is important because partners can have increased depression as a result. This can lead to decreased relationship and life satisfaction. While this article didn’t examine relationships at work, it seems logical that the same principles might apply. If you are trying to connect with someone and they are absorbed in technology, you might feel more upset if you don’t know where you stand with that person to begin with.
What Can We Do to Manage Technology More Mindfully?
Overall, technological advances have helped us to do a lot of great things as a society. But, if you don’t manage the role of technology in your life, it could be dangerous or destructive. If you feel like you’re constantly anxious about missing out on work or insecure in your work or life relationships, have a direct conversation with those you work with or care about. That way, you are more likely to get the positive reinforcement you need.
Or you might look for relationships at work and in life that make you feel good about who you are. That way, you won’t always have to compare yourself to others. You might also talk directly about how you both prefer to manage technology. You could set “rules” for engaging with tech when you’re communicating one-on-one. Mindfulness training can also help. So, download an app and try to spend a few minutes a day on it!
Think also about how you make other people feel. Do you expect they are going to respond right away to every message you send? Do you ignore them when you could be spending quality time? Have you talked about the role of technology in facilitating or inhibiting your relationship? In other words, looking at the bigger picture of why we use technology and being conscious about its role in our lives can help us to be kind to ourselves and to others. And it might save you from breaking your feet!!
Have some strategies for managing technology through mindfulness for us? Share below! We’d love to hear from you!