Technology Burnout In Your Thirties

Sometimes I find myself laughing silently while alone in my bedroom.

I’ll look up for a moment and realize that I’m sitting on my massage chair while watching TV while posting a status update to Facebook from my phone while holding my laptop open to a Twitter-linked article.

And I’ll just start laughing. But it’s the kind of laugh that could easily turn into a slow and honest cry.

Those of us in our late twenties through forties that have grown up without cellphones and laptops in our lives are now living in a world where we’re dependent on our portable devices.

What has become of alone time without social media connection? I sometimes find myself anxious over Facebook posts, or wondering if I haven’t been on Twitter enough, or whether I should be posting on LinkedIn more. I actually spend time wondering why Snapchat is so popular and how to get more into Instagram.

Graph-social-media

The moment I get up in the morning, I reach for my cellphone. What I see on that phone can influence my mood for the rest of the day. There’s so much going on and so little time. Then right after making some coffee, I’m immediately tempted to turn on my laptop. Once I do, I can get sucked into random article reading for hours on end.

Even in order to simply meditate, I have to open a meditation app on my phone or website on my laptop to access my music or guided meditations. How crazy is it that even to be alone with my thoughts I have to reach for a portable device???

However, when I take time off from social media, things change in my life. As much as I like social media and my laptop and my email, when I gain control and shut things down for awhile, I feel a kind of peace that is unreachable when technology’s buzzing around me at every moment.

My roommate actually disconnected from technology completely. Years before I met her, she gave away her smart phone. She sold her laptop. She has no TV. All she has is an emergency flip-phone and a radio. I can’t imagine myself doing what she’s doing, but she’s one of the most blissful, radiant people I know.

When I manage to disconnect from most technology, even for a few concentrated hours, I actually feel better (after the initial discomfort subsides). Time moves slower. Hot showers feel hotter. I find myself taking walks and feeling more connected to my body and my surroundings. I think harder about what I’m feeling and how it affects the way I breathe.

So I’m of two minds about the whole technology thing. I actually love technology and I do think it’s important and helpful. I’m extremely fascinated by the future of technology and I really want to learn HTML. My laptop is my favorite possession. My phone is my lifeline. Social Media is my way to connect the world. I love that so much information is at my fingertips at all times- I get how important it is to be able to find almost any answer to any question at any time.

Yet I also think it’s important not to get sucked into technology as a dependent habit- the same way it’s bad to get sucked into other dependent habits like smoking or nail biting. There are times when I can’t kick the urge to reach for my phone or check my email. I find it hard to simply be alone with my thoughts and no Facebook. This isn’t a healthy use of technology- it’s a crutch.

As I continue to walk the line between avoiding technology altogether (not gonna happen) and getting sucked in, I try to remember how good it feels to be without it for even just a little while. And even during those times when it feels anxiety-provoking to close the laptop and avoid checking my phone, I know that being able to live my life without technology, for even a short time, is extremely important.

Don’t be afraid to be alone with your thoughts.

 

 

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The Never Empty Inbox

Thousands of emails had piled up in my inbox while I turned the other way, hoping they’d disappear on their own. Literally thousands…3,508 to be exact, spread evenly over my 3 email categories in gmail.

“How did I let it get this bad?” I thought.

The emails got unwieldy because I hadn’t wanted to read all of them the moment they arrived, but there were a bunch of articles I one day wanted to get to and read. “One day,” I thought, “I’ll have all this extra free time and I’ll want to read some of these fascinating articles.”

When I was in LA last week, I brought my computer and followed Jane to her job at the library. “I’m going to use this time to delete all my emails,” I said. And I did just that, sitting next to her deleting while she worked. In about an hour and a half, I’d gotten the emails down to 2,508..or somewhere around there.

Another hour later, and I’d gotten smarter and unsubscribed from a bunch of mailing lists…”maybe this will stop the craziness next time,” I thought. Some of the lists were hard to unsubscribe from…but most actually had a pretty clear unsubscribe button on the bottom of their emails. “I should have done this sooner.”

When I got back from LA, I still had over 1000 emails. I felt overwhelmed…was I going to have to go through all of it and find the good articles while deleting the bad? The anxiety deepened, and in one fell swoop, I did something I’ve never done before. I checked all the emails in every category and pressed ‘archive.’

Screenshot 2014-12-09 17.41.50

Suddenly everything vanished. I had an empty inbox and lots of time. And my anxiety was gone.

 

I didn’t miss the articles. I wasn’t nostalgic for the clutter. All I saw was an empty inbox and lots of peaceful time ahead. I felt the same way as when I moved and gave away 13 garbage bags full of stuff- I felt happy for more space and I never missed the belongings. Why did I ever have all that stuff to begin with?

Take the plunge.

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