Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Confessions of an Addict

I have two rules when it comes to the latest technology. First, I don't jump in during the first wave of hype. I longed for a smart phone for two years before I bought one. I wait. I watch. I study. And then I make my decision. Second, I am brand-loyal to a fault. I'm a Blackberry guy. And while their market share is dwindling and their stock price is plummeting, I'm still all in. I'll loyally stick with my Blackberry until it goes the way of vinyl records and rotary phones.
In any case, once I'm in, I'm dedicated. I love technology. I communicate via my Blackberry, I share a schedule with my wife on Google Calendar, and I Tweet - even though no one wants to follow me.

On the surface, this can be a good thing. Technology certainly allows me to be more efficient, process information faster, respond more promptly, and get more things done in a day. Beneath the surface, it's a drug. At it's worst, I'm not present with my wife because my eyes are glued to the blinking red light on my phone indicating that important information awaits. I miss a "Dad, watch this" moment with my kids because the alluring buzzing of the phone is distracting me. I am disrespectful to others in meetings because the words on my phone become seemingly more important than the words being spoken.

Once again, it's not the thing (tech junkie) as much as it's the thing beneath the thing. At times, my addiction to technology can be a manifestation of narcissism, materialism, and escapism. The deeper issues are observed in the symptoms of tech-driven distraction and isolation. Unresolved, they pull us away from the human and supernatural relationships that our souls desire. An addiction to the digital world can be a very unhealthy lifestyle, socially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Howard Mann, author of Your Business Backyard, says "... We've become slaves to our mobile devices and the glow of our screens.... We walk the streets with our heads down staring into 3-inch screens while the world whisks by doing the same. And yet we're convinced we are more connected to each other than ever before. Multi-tasking has become a badge of honor. I want to know why."

I'm not proposing that we give up our digital devices. (The thought is unbearable for me). I am offering that we turn them off sometimes. Over the next 30 days, be challenged to miss the HD TV show for a hike with your family, listen to understand during your next meeting instead of reading emails during the discussion, turn the phone off from the time that you get home from work until the next morning, skip the digital home workout for one with others in a community like the Y, go outside - fall in PA is exceptional, or just be present with your friends and family - making someone feel valued by giving them your time and attention can be life changing.

My brother is a top-of-his-class, Management of Information Systems major at Penn State University. He lives and breathes the digital world. Yet, he'll always choose a phone call over an email when it matters most. He invests his time and focus into his fiance, not just plugging her into his schedule. He uses technology as a tool, but pours himself into relationships as a life. Maybe I'll text him and tell him how much I admire that.