I recently heard a statistic that says that the average smartphone user checks their phone an average of 103 times per day. If you break that down and account for sleep, that’s about once every 10 minutes. So it sounds like I might not be the only one with a problem.
I’ve been continuing to struggle with urges, like any addict does, but along with the struggles have come insights which I would like to share with you today.
First, Why Do I Have a Technology Addiction?
As I mentioned in my last post on the subject, I noticed that I had a tendency to reach for my laptop whenever the day-to-day hassles started to stress me out. Like any addiction, I was using technology to avoid a problem and fill a need. Just like smokers take a drag off a cigarette to calm their nerves and alcoholics turn to the bottle to numb their feelings for awhile, I was using the calming effect of my computer’s glowing screen to distract me from what was going on around me.
Why Does It Work?
For me, it works because it is the opposite of the stresses I face and it is readily available. You see, I am an introvert.
I know, I know, that has become some kind of trendy thing to say and everyone is joining the hot new Introvert Club, but I really, truly am. It is difficult for me to be in situations where I have to be “on” and mommying is an “on” job if ever there was one. Combine that with the fact that I am a perfectionist and I am drained to the core by day’s end.
Every interaction with my children forces me to do several things:
1. Encounter their unpredictable words and actions.
2. Formulate an appropriate (or, in my mind, perfect) response to these words and actions.
3. Execute my response in an immediate and appropriate way.
4. Evaluate whether my response was correct based on their reactions.
Repeated about a hundred (probably more) times a day. It is draining. Combine that with the fact that I tend toward claustrophobia and I frequently have children climbing all over me and it’s a miracle I don’t run screaming from my house every day. (Thank you, God, for making my kids so darn cute and awesome.)
In contrast, here is what my computer allows me to do:
1. Have complete control over what I experience.
2. Requires nothing from me and as I click from site to site it allows me to act impulsively without consequence.
3. Communicate with others at my own speed, allowing me to think carefully before typing, delete, retype, and not send until I feel confident with my message.
(Did you catch #2? “...allows me to act impulsively without consequence.” Um...can you say hello, Mr. Adversary? That should be throwing up some red flags right there!)
How Do I Know If I’m Addicted?
Elder M. Russell Ballard made a great statement that I now try to keep constantly in my mind whenever I use media. In this article about the talk he gave he was quoted talking about smartphones and said, "They need to be our servants, not our masters. For example, if later tonight you share inspiring thoughts from this devotional on social media, your smartphone is a servant. If you randomly surf the Internet, your smartphone is a master."
Is your technology your servant or your master?
- Do you turn on the TV knowing exactly what you will be watching, and turn it off when you are through?
- Do you go online knowing exactly what you will be doing and close out your device when you have finished?
- Do you check your phone for messages and then promptly put it away?
Let me be clear- I love a good Pinterest-browsing session as much as anybody, but I also know that it should begin as a conscious decision and end at a set time.
Is your technology your servant or your master? Who decides what will occur when you pick up that phone/computer/tablet/remote?
I could go on and on about this, but if you’d like to think more about it, be sure to check out this article from the June 2014 Ensign, Media With Merit.
How do I break the habit?
Quite simply, go to the source. Find your triggers and eliminate them, if possible, and if not, then find alternative ways of coping with the stress without turning to old habits.
It’s pretty obvious that I can’t eliminate my children from my life- nor would I want to- so instead I realized that I needed to find a way to fill that need for calm and introversion without the use of technology. So here are some things that work for me, things that I can do at a moment’s notice if I need to:
1. Music- (Okay, I know, technically this is still technology but it’s not an alienating form of technology, so I think it’s fine.) Just turning on some music in the house relaxes my brain and lifts my mood- and often, the mood of others in the house as well. I can sing along- maybe even dance a bit too- and my stress levels start to go down.
2. Work- Seems like this would stress me out more, but it doesn’t. Being productive gives me a sense of accomplishment, the kids can’t climb on me when I’m doing the dishes or vacuuming, the physical exertion releases those feel-good endorphins, and most times when my kids see work happening they’ll hightail it to another room. So I can actually be alone and think. :-)
3. Reading- Reading is awesome because hey, writers love to read, and for some reason it’s not as addictive for me as the internet. I feel more in control and it’s easier for me to put down a book and do something else than it is for me to close my computer.
4. Reading the Scriptures- This is something else that quickly elevates my mood by inviting the Holy Ghost, and I don’t ever have to worry that I’ll be so involved in it that I’ll neglect my family because the Spirit always reminds me of the joy in my calling as a mother and prompts me to return to them. :-)
5. Get Outside- You can combine this with work and go pull some weeds or even just go sit on the front porch. One night things were particularly hectic in my house and I could feel my stress levels rising, so I just walked out the front door and sat on the steps. The fresh air was cooler and much less stifling than inside and the quiet of the evening calmed my nerves. It wasn’t long before my 4-year-old clomped outside in her nightgown and snow boots and asked what I was doing, but I just replied, “Sitting.” She said, “Oh,” and sat down beside me. And started talking my ear off. :-)
6. Talk to Someone- I’ve realized that sometimes I just need a grownup conversation, one that doesn’t require me to solve somebody’s problem or understand kid language or lecture someone about something. So I pick up the phone and call my mom or my husband to remind me that I’m a person too.
Another important thing to remember when trying to overcome a technology addiction is to create some personal rules regarding your technology usage. Personally, I decided that I needed to be tech-free between the hours of 3pm and 8pm every day. This is my most stressful time of day (homework, dinner, bedtime) and I realized that when I am on the computer during this time (again, trying to alleviate the stress) I get much more irritated with my kids because I see them as a distraction. Instead, I utilize my alternatives and I do not turn the computer on until after the kids are in bed. If I’m waiting for them to get ready for bed and gather for our family prayer I either do some cleaning or I sit on the couch and read books with whoever is ready for bed.
Why Should I Ditch My Addiction?
In yet another great article from the June 2014 Ensign, Parenting Unplugged, the author talks about “beholding” our children and writes,
"For today’s parents, this kind of beholding often requires the discipline to unplug, a conscious choice to turn away from our screens and turn off our digital devices. It may mean resisting the temptation to check our text messages or scroll through social media posts. It may involve thoughtfully establishing personal and family media rules, setting boundaries that will protect the sacred time that we give to one another in our families daily.Did you catch that? Family time is sacred. Sacred. We must protect it.
By striving to more fully and more frequently behold our little ones, we will nourish our children’s sense of worth, enrich our relationships with one another, and enjoy more of those sacred moments when we see into the hearts of our children.” - Jan Pinborough, Church Magazines
In my scripture reading the other day, I was reminded of one of the purposes of life:
"And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.”- Moroni 9:6We have a labor to perform! As parents, as human beings, I can guarantee you that labor has very little to do with Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. It has so much more to do with that sacred family time, scripture study, missionary work, temple work, service, and the things that will bring us closer to that rest in the kingdom of God.
Okay, one last quotation for ya:
"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.”- Mosiah 4:27If you’re hooked, take it one step at a time. The internet and these devices are not evil, they’re just addictive, and finding a balance can be a tricky undertaking. Start each day with prayer and listen to that little voice in your head that says, “Time to put it away now.” As you follow those promptings and check back into your life, it will get easier.
Is this something that you struggle with? What suggestions do you have for dealing with a technology addiction?