Back in the 80″s, AT&T urged people to REACH OUT & TOUCH SOMEONE with their telephone service. Fast forward almost forty years and technology, including smartphones and social media, has turned human connections upside down.  The very devices that developed to instantly connect us often become sources of disconnect and isolation!

 In The Hidden Risk Factor for Your Health, Part 1, I emphasized that our health is strongly tied to our evolutionary need for connection to others.

 When we “reach out and touch someone” we usually feel safe and supported. Our nervous systems remain regulated positively impacting the body’s physiology leading to enhanced immune function and better health. 

Yet our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, along with our smartphones, laptops, etc. are potential and powerful risk factors for our health.   

 Most of us love having the ability to access important information in a flash and enjoy the ease of staying in touch with friends, family and co-workers. But the frenetic speed of our daily lives often keeps us from interacting with each other in meaningful ways.

“As the focus of the family has turned to the glow of the screen—children constantly texting their friends or going online to do homework; parents working online around the clock—everyday life is undergoing a massive transformation. … The digital world is here to stay, but what are families losing with technology’s gain?”  From The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner -Adair:

When chronic tech distractions dominate our lives, we remain in a hyper vigilant mode. Over time a ramped up nervous system negatively impacts our health and well-being.

When our bodies are full of adrenalin, the blood supply to our brain decreases. The nervous system gets out of whack compromising our immune system’s ability to do its job.

“One study showed that the mere presence of a cellphone when two people are talking interferes with feelings of closeness, connection, and communication.

 …If devices constantly interfere with your conversations, you undermine your ability to connect with others. You miss the flicker of emotion in your child’s eye, the look of exasperation in your partner, or the attempt of a friend to share something meaningful with you. In theory, social media is meant to connect us, but in reality, it acts as a barrier.”  Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.

A study by Tecmark in Britain says the average person looks at their smartphone 221 times per day – an average of once every 4.3 minutes.

 So what are we to do with this distressing information?   I care about my health and well-being, but I’m not willing to ditch my devices.  I believe that we each need to become mindfully aware of our own tech usage and balance the benefits and potential risks.

                                After all, technology is a tool, not a drug.

 Begin with small steps:

 Carefully observe your tech usage with curiosity and without judgment.

  • Notice how you feel when your phone is out of sight. Pay attention to your physical sensations like tension and tightness, increased heart rate, etc. Are you feeling discomfort, anxiety, or panic?
  • Implement a tiny action step to briefly unplug – at the dinner table, in the car, in the bedroom or kitchen and notice the impact of this action.
  • Set aside opportunities for face to face interactions without any devices in view.

This heightened awareness will lead us to control and master our relationships with our devices without being enslaved by them.

And remember, YOU hold the key!