Technology and anxiety – an unnecessary stress

In the April 2015 issue of Marketing News, there ran an article entitled Digital Disruption and the Death of Storytelling. Penned by Molly Soat, it featured professor and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, and his thoughts on human connections in our personal lives, our businesses and our governments.

One question asked of Rushkoff was:

Q: What are the dangers of leading people into certain behaviors with digital technology?

His response is an eye-opening revelation many of us probably never think about.

“A: It’s dangerous for people, for companies and for governments alike. It’s dangerous for people in that they end up in an always-on, constantly pinged reality. They end up living to catch up with their Twitter feeds and their Facebook news, and all of the e-mails and phone calls, and they don’t end up with any time to actually live, to actually be in the present.

We live completely reactively, reacting to these technologies. That’s really bad for your nervous system. It’s a state of constant emergency interruption that only a 911 operator or an air traffic controller used to have to contend with. Now we all live with that all of the time, with the cell phone vibrating every time someone updates or pings or e-mails us, as if it’s some emergency.”

Today we’re always connected thanks to the infiltration of technology in our lives.

It used to be that our computers lived in our homes on a computer desk purchased from IKEA or “furniture” haphazardly constructed of milk crates and a piece of plywood.

Our telephones (as they used to be called) were typically found hanging on kitchen walls or prominently displayed on tiny dedicated tables in the living room.

Our watches told the time, the date and sometimes the weather temperature, and were more about functionality than anything else.

But today there’s really no escaping that feeling of being “connected” all the time. Our smart phones are like tiny computers – an additional appendage – that we can’t seem to separate from regardless of the time of day.

Sometimes when I hear a “ring” tone coming from my phone – a different tone depending on the form of communication (call, text, email, social platforms, etc.) – I actually cringe. Not because I’m opposed to communicating with people, but the unexpected interruption does cause a certain level of anxiety.

And I think that’s the point really. Smart phones (and soon smart watches) have created a constant stream of interruptions. Our lives are no longer our own – instead controlled by a sea of ring tones and notifications we feel pressured to answer ASAP!

No matter where we are or what we’re doing – out enjoying nature, at a romantic dinner with our spouse or playing with our kids in the backyard – that constant interruption is always there taking precedence over the more important facets of our lives.

Rushkoff goes on to say, “There’s this neurological breakdown that happens where we think our cell phone is vibrating in our pocket even though it’s on a shelf somewhere far away because we’re just always in that state of panic.”

The time has come to put our phones down (and take our watches off) and start appreciating the life that’s right in front of us. Everything else can wait.