I have to start out by saying that I love technology. I’m old enough to remember the huge black and white televisions and rotary telephones of my youth. Today’s gadgets – smart phones, tablets, MP3 players, computers and flat screen televisions – are more useful, productive and a lot more fun.
They are also a lot more addictive. Recently a yoga teacher shot a dirty look at a student who couldn’t stop checking her email in the middle of class. The kicker to the story is that the student complained to her employer (Facebook) and the teacher was fired for being too strict. Really? So, not only is the student so addicted to her phone that she can’t enjoy an hour of uninterrupted yoga time, but her addiction is accepted and actually encouraged.
I get the addiction. I succumb to it myself, because it’s human. That’s why we have to learn to use the technology mindfully and not buy into the social construct that it’s okay to be mindless, rude and disconnected from the real world as long as you use the excuse that you’re busy.
I take a “Stress Management Yoga” class twice a week and it’s lovely. The teacher begins class by turning off the big overhead lights. With only the light of her small lamp at the front of the room, I immediately go into a relaxed state.
One day, a young woman came into the class. I doubt she was over the age of 21. She laid out her mat close to mine, piling all of her stuff – shoes, water bottle, cell phone – next to her mat. As soon as class started, so did the texting. Do you know what the glare of a cell phone’s light looks like in a dark room? It’s a beacon of light that bores a hole into your head.
I didn’t want to complain, because I was trying to stay relaxed and blissfully unaware of outside annoyances, but I was losing the fight. I cheered when the teacher finally came over to her and told her, “We don’t do that in here.” She put the phone down, but a few minutes later picked it up and checked it again. I don’t know what she was checking, but I doubt it was of national importance. She left when class was over and I’ve never seen her again.
Which reminds me of an ancient memory, long before cell phones even existed. When I was a brand new lawyer, I worked for a small firm with two associates. I was one and the other associate was a young woman who was a chain smoker. In fact, I remember she had a habit of lighting up her next cigarette before she actually finished the one in her hand. I honestly don’t know how she got anything else done.
One day, we had to go to the law library to do research. Panic ensued when she realized smoking wasn’t allowed in the library. She finally accepted the fact that there was no choice, took a deep breath, rushed into the library, worked in a panic for a few minutes until she couldn’t stand it anymore, and rushed back out for a smoke. And she did this all day long.
Watching her struggle with her addiction was illuminating. I realized how free I was to come and go as I pleased, while she ran back and forth as if the library was toxic and she could only breathe in its air a few minutes at a time. She obviously loved her cigarettes, just as we love our technology, but that love came at a price.
The next time I know I spending too much time checking my phone or surfing the web, I’m going to remember my long ago colleague. I don’t want to ever be so addicted to anything that I literally can’t breathe if I can’t have it (other than oxygen, of course.) If I’ve learned anything from cancer, I’ve learned to be more aware and appreciative of all aspects of my life. It’s impossible to be mindfully connected to your life, friends, family and bodily needs if your connection to technology supersedes anything else.
Do you find yourself mindlessly addicted to technology sometimes? What do you do to try to break out of addictive technology usage?
Survival > Existence,
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