Dealing with Digital Addiction

It may sound odd coming from a guy who has written 87 computer books and over 300 articles, but I think the world has a severe technology addiction that’s going to cause us significant woe at some point (assuming it hasn’t already). Obesity, people who think cable television is a basic necessity, the need to have a cell phone constantly attached to one’s ear, and all of the other negatives commonly associated with a digital addiction today are only the beginningthings will get worse. Don’t get me wrong, technology definitely has positive aspects and it has a role to fulfill in the modern world, but I think we’ve gone way too far (and I’m sure we’ll go further).

One of the best ways in which technology can help is to level the playing field for those with special needs. In fact, anyone who knows me knows that I have a very special place in my heart for those who have special needs and can be helped by technology used in a positive way. However, it’s often the technology developed for people with special needs that seems to hurt us the worst (think of the television remoteit mainly started as an accessibility aid).

I read a PC Magazine commentary by Lance Ulanoff this morning about digital addiction and a book that will help you with it. Most people don’t need a bookthey need a reason and a plan. You can’t combat anything that you’re not convinced you need to combat. Some people are incredibly happy being addicted to technologyI feel sad for them because they’re missing out. If you make your entire world revolve around technology, you’re likely missing out on real friends and relationships with family. You’re also missing out on a vast range of experiences that have nothing to do with technology. However, unless you see that you’re missing out on these things, nothing that I or anyone else says will convince you of anything. So, you need a reason to deal with a digital addition.

If you finally do come up with a good reason, you need a plan. When I gave up smoking years ago, I had to find a way to fill the vacuum. My way of dealing with the addiction is probably uniqueI bought some running clothes and a new pair of shoes. Every time I wanted a cigarette, I went for a run instead. For about a month, I actually ended up sleeping on the couch in my running clothes because it was easier than having to get dressed to address an urge in the middle of the night. After about six months I found I had lost 20 pounds and that I felt extremely good. So, something positive came out of getting rid of those cigarettes.

My own technology addiction came sometime after I left the Navy. It seemed as if my wife couldn’t pry me out of my office under any circumstance and that I couldn’t enjoy any activity that didn’t somehow involve my computer. I was constantly worried about missing somethingthat some event would happen and I wouldn’t be available to deal with it. (If this sounds at all familiar, you likely have a digital addiction too.) I’m not quite sure when it snuck up on me, but it did. As with my cigarette addiction, once I realized I had a problem (my weight skyrocketed and I felt terrible), I came up with a plan to deal with it. I started including daily walks in my regimen, spent time with my wife playing board games, going to shows instead of watching television, went on picnics, started working with wood, and took time to enjoy events at the park. My mother-in-law helped by getting us an annual pass to the zoo. All of these things are part of the plan that fills the void so technology doesn’t rule my life.

The battle to contribute in a positive way to the world and yet not let technology rule my life is ongoing. You’ve seen my posts on self-sufficiencythat’s part of the plan. I don’t carry a cell phone, don’t worry about the messages in my inbox or on my answering machine, and think about things other than writing. Twice a year I shut everything offthe computer doesn’t exist for that time intervalmy wife and I get reacquainted. As a result, I’m happier and healthier than I have been in many years. If you find that you can’t leave the technology at home, unplug, and not feel any remorse about doing it, then you have a digital addiction and I encourage you to find both a reason and a plan for dealing with it. Let me know your thoughts about digital addiction at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.