Time to Unplug?

Christine Whelan | Posted on 06/11/10

This week Tara Parker-Pope wrote a New York Times piece about the high toll of technology over-dependence: With immediate access to information and online storage galore, are we getting more impatient... and more forgetful?

Typically, the concern about our dependence on technology is that it detracts from our time with family and friends in the real world. But psychologists have become intrigued by a more subtle and insidious effect of our online interactions. It may be that the immediacy of the Internet, the efficiency of the iPhone and the anonymity of the chat room change the core of who we are, issues that Dr. Aboujaoude explores in a book, "Virtually You: The Internet and the Fracturing of the Self," to be released next year.

Dr. Aboujaoude also asks whether the vast storage available in e-mail and on the Internet is preventing many of us from letting go, causing us to retain many old and unnecessary memories at the expense of making new ones. Everything is saved these days, he notes, from the meaningless e-mail sent after a work lunch to the angry online exchange with a spouse.

I know I am-and these are issues I've blogged about before: Constant crackberry or iPhone use in social situations sends a message that you don't care about the people sitting right in front of you. 

Establishing community is a core element of wellbeing -- and the best way to do this is through in-person interactions.

Need help getting present? Try this:

  • Turn off your "stuff" - your PDA, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry etc. And I don't mean just putting 'em on vibrate. There is an on/off switch for this very reason. Make your time with friends and family count.
  • Go for a walk. It's easier for some people to put aside distractions when they take a walk in a park or on quiet neighborhood streets. You're multitasking in some ways - burning calories while having quality time - but it also allows both of you to get away from other people for a bit.
  • Listen. Ask questions-and be honestly interested in learning about other people, not just downloading your information on them. It makes for a more interesting exchange for you both.

Have a pleasant, present and unplugged weekend. I dare you.

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