Technostress is the new buzzword. Simply put, Technostress is the stress induced explicitly or implicitly due to the usage of Technology. Just think about how technology has impacted our living. The pervasiveness and its accessibility are making new inroads.
Televisions in bedrooms are no longer the issue being discussed. It is accepted now that a home has more than one television set. Then, we had the era where computers found a home not just on the computer table but also the bedside table. Tablets and Smartphones became the next big thing to invade our lives at all times and all hours. Checking emails before bedtime has become common. We stretched the limits by creating a ritual of checking smartphones first thing in the morning – we check the phone for all sorts of information – the latest facebook updates, and of course, work emails. I learned recently that checking Instagram and Twitter feeds as the first act of the morning is a common thing for many.
I was at a car service center recently with a family member, waiting for my car to be serviced. In the past, waiting with a friend or a family member was an opportunity to catch up, have a dialogue, learn about the good and bad things in life, plan for an event and so on. It was precious time – you are at a captive place, there is not much you can do other than bond with each other. Today, things have changed – each person sits with their heads down, glued to their smartphones and a TV would be on with no one watching it. By the way, I’m still intrigued on why car dealerships keep those TV’s turned on with noisy blaring sounds. It is the same when you go to a Dentist’s office or a Doctor’s office. Why do they keep those units on? At a Dentist office, I’m there to get in and get out as quickly as possible and not watch some TV show which is insipid and boring.
A family going out together in a car no longer maximizes the time as a period of togetherness. How can it be, when everyone is glued to their phones? Even the driver is not spared. A National Safety Council survey revealed that 74% said they would use Facebook while driving, and 37% said they would use Twitter while behind the wheel, with YouTube (35%) and Instagram (33%) close behind.
By maximizing the usage and pervasiveness of technology, we have created a major problem – Technostress. This is on top of the other regular stress we have – stress induced due to work pressures, time pressures, financial pressures and family pressures.
We have diminished the concept of free time. Our ability to reflect, pause and think has reduced. Instead of relaxing by reading a book at car service center, we aimlessly browse through facebook posts and the hundreds of pictures. Instead of mapping out a personal development plan while waiting, we browse through shopping sites. Instead of increasing our social interaction while waiting, we increase our online interaction through text messages using an abbreviated language from a different planet.
When the ability to pause and think decreases, stress increases.
When mindfulness decreases, stress increases.
When human interaction decreases, our cognitive ability to cope up with stress decreases.
Here are 3 ways you can deal with Technostress:
Be the driver of Technology – Decide the optimal usage of technology and drive the usage. There is probably an iPhone or an Android app for every facet of life. See what works for you, arrive at a hybrid mix of using traditional pen and paper and technology apps. The To-Do list on the refrigerator is probably not a bad idea. While for contacts you can no longer rely on a paper Rolodex and must use an online contact repository. An online calendar might replace a traditional calendar. You decide what works, just don’t go out and buy the latest fad or jazzy application because it worked for someone else. Before buying a new device or downloading an app, weigh the pros and cons, particularly on the usage of your time. Make your time a premium and precious entity.
Set some clear boundaries – A leader once told me, “While at the dinner table with family, phone calls can wait unless it is an emergency. Emails will definitely wait.” Do not let technology invade your quality time with family and friends. Also, watch out for emotional reactions and type of devices. As an example, reading email on a smartphone is shown to increase stress compared to reading the same message on a laptop or a computer. Similarly, wearing smart watches with email notifications will take you away from the present moment and disrupt conversations.
Avoid becoming a victim of continued multi-tasking – I’ve for long preached that multitasking is dangerous, unhelpful and results in a poor quality output. I realize though that some element of multitasking is unavoidable. We all engage in varying degree of multitasking. It could be speaking on the phone and taking notes simultaneously or taking a conference call on a headset while driving. Multitasking results in an erroneous estimation of our ability to react and the speed of our reflex mechanisms. If you must multitask, keep that to a minimum. Take a break in-between multitasking and practice mindfulness.
Technology innovations are here to stay. I do no think it is even feasible to go back and have a life without gadgets and technology. There are many positives of technology, but the explosion of social collaboration has to be governed and controlled carefully to avoid an increase in stress. When properly managed, Technology becomes an ally.
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Picture Courtesy – Steve Buissinne