5 Steps to Take Back Your Life From Technology
In the 2009 film Surrogates, humanity has decided to use humanoid robots to live a perfectly sheltered existence. People can remain safe from harm, while living vicariously through their fit, attractive robot selves.
But, as is always the case, things aren’t as they seem and the veneer of perfection begins to be stripped away and conflicts emerge between the vast majority of those who have chosen to use Surrogates and the few holdouts.
The personal drama of the film centers around FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike). Their relationship is frayed and distant due to the death of their son several years earlier. Maggie refuses to engage with Tom or do anything outside of her surrogate.
What was meant as a way for humans to experience live more fully became a way for them to avoid truly living. Sound familiar?
This post is not the rant of a Luddite – you are reading it on a blog after all. There are great benefits we can draw from technological advances, but we fool ourselves if we think they don’t also bring significant dangers.
There have been numerous studies and research done on the effect the internet and smartphones are having on our brains. In many ways, they are clearly rewiring them and having an impact on our physical health.
I know this temptation full well. It would be extremely difficult for me to go through a complete digital detox, not only because it is part of my job, but because it is part of the way I live my life now.
But that does not mean I should not take steps to foster a more healthy use of technology. While it may be a part of everyday life, it does not have to be part of your life every day (not to mention every minute).
Like the people in Surrogates, if we are not careful, we will not notice when technology has become a barrier to, and not a tool for, human connectivity and personal relationships.
Here are steps to help you avoid living your live completely behind a screen.
1. Make and keep eye contact
It can be as simple as that. Looking someone in the eyes (and not at your phone) helps them to know you are engaged in what they are saying, not waiting for a text message or a tweet.
2. Have technology free days
Sometimes, for your sake and the sake of your family, you just need to turn everything off. No video games. No TV. No smartphones or laptops. Maybe you go to a park, read a book or play a board game as a family.
3. Have hours when the phone is off
If there is a legitimate reason why you cannot have your phone completely off, use the Do Not Disturb Mode. That way you can be reached in an emergency, but otherwise the phone stays quiet.
4. Don’t get defensive
Give your loved ones permission to tell you to put your phone away. But not just permission – permission to do it and you not get angry. When you get defensive, you basically admit you have a problem.
5. Humble yourself
Often times, our need to “stay connected” stems from an over-inflated sense of our self-worth. We don’t believe others can function without us. Give them a chance. They may just surprise you.
Technology can be great when it encourages and deepens the relationship we have with others. But when it serves as the primary way for us to engage those around us, it needs to be placed back within its proper boundaries.
We can use technology to create a false version of ourselves that always have the answers and never go through problems. But that’s not healthy, and – like the surrogates in the film – is destined to collapse.
When we view the world only through the lens of social media, we are not viewing the world at all. Rather, we are like a blind man hearing someone else describe the colors they see. But in this case, we have placed the blinders on ourselves.
Real life requires vulnerability and honesty within our community. Unchecked technology can serve as a prophylactic promising us we can have safe life, but robbing us of the deep joy that comes with allowing those around us to see our pain and scars. Authenticity matters.
You can use technology – just make sure it never becomes the other way around.