Electronics Addiction: Another Leading Cause of “Busyness”

Dear Lindsey,

It is astounding that the same tools that multiply efficiency of time can steal it in equal magnitude.  I would say that life would be better if electricity were never used, but wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite as I type on my word-processor and you read on your computer?

Kevin DeYoung, in his book,  Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, lists several diagnoses causing busyness:

  • Trying to look good, instead of actually doing good. (and its close cousins: pride, Unknownpeople pleasing and perfectionism),
  • Trying to do more than what God expects me to do.
  • Not setting priorities…even in serving others.
  • “Kinderarchy”:  Freaking out about my kids.
  • Being addicted to technology.
  • Not resting enough.

Electronics Addiction

My last letter talked about overparenting and freaking out about my kids, but this one is more about freaking out over me….being addicted to technology.

Yes, I could say that the kids are the ones with the electronics problem. I took six teenagers for ten hours in a car last month, and I think I could count on my fingers the number of words they said to each other….with their mouths, anyway. It seems we are raising a silent generation – as their thumbs type the words (even while sitting next to each other in a car!) that we once verbalized.  I find it ironic though, that every time I want to say, “Put the phone down,” (which is an acceptable request in our house – any time) I have to stop myself from using my own phone first.

gadget-addictionDo I really think I am so “needed” that I cannot go a few hours without seeing if someone needs me on my phone? Do I think my children cannot survive minutes of my errand-running without having me on an electronic leash, able to be tugged at their beck and call?

Gone are the neighborly days in which I grew up, since neighbors are not as “used.”  When my brother, Tim, hit a baseball in the backyard that rearranged my brother Mike’s nose to be firmly planted into his eye, the neighbor (“my second mother,” we called her) came running with a role of paper towels before the injured one had even stopped running (and screaming). Those kind of neighborly bonding moments are gone! Why is it that broken noses in backyard baseball seem so much healthier than Snap Chat, video games and DISH? 🙂

When email first began its trend, I remember putting a tag at the end of my emails, “I check email on Friday afternoons only, so please be patient in awaiting a reply.”

WHAT?!

How did that ever work? Now, it seems perfectly legitimate for a coach to email a change in my kids’ 5:30 practice at 4:30!  Everyone assumes you are on the leash!  I had fourteen emails today, regarding soccer alone. Heaven forbid my family’s biannual dentist appointments come around, because – since I am the secretary and personal chauffeur of my four children – I get ten emails (two per child, and myself) reminding me, outside of the five identical texts and five automated phone calls… all to tell me about one appointment I had already put into my calendar six months prior – when the appointment was booked.  You’d think they are afraid that my family is so “busy,” we will forget the appointment!  And sometimes, we do.

Unknown-2My brain has become so accustomed to the fast pace of multi-tasking, that I can hardly sit for sixty seconds at a red light, without habitually grabbing my phone to check the few buzzes I missed since the last light. I mean, really: if I accidentally leave the house without my phone, I am shocked at how many times I reach for it (and notice only because it is not there). The old days of talking to the lady behind me in line have diminished into a world of looking at the top of her head, while she does the Smart Phone Slouch, as if sending approval for me to assume the same stance.

It has been proven that endorphins are released and produce a “high” when the phone buzzes or computer indicates, “You’ve got mail!”  It makes a subliminal desire for the same high if we go minutes without getting it.  (That must be why I miss my phone if I am without it for a nano-second.)

Last week, a baby whined in her car seat in a waiting room images-2where I sat. The mom typed away on her phone to who-knows-who while the little cry got a little more forceful.  I chuckled to myself, while I checked my own phone to see if my father in Colorado had taken his turn on Words with Friends. It is striking how a phone can eliminate the 1600 miles between my father and me… and yet distance the mom from her baby in the same room!

“We are now more wired than ever. Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half of the study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour. An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of [some] users check every single time an email arrives and 83 percent check email every day on vacation.” (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/when-technology-addiction-takes-over-your-life)

It’s no wonder I feel so BUSY!

I would like to say I am going to commit to go back in time, and start square dancing in the barn with neighbors! Haha! I would first have to buy a barn and introduce myself to my neighbors – who might run from me if I were talking about square dancing!

Really, my goal is to utilize electronics to run life, not let electronics’ use run my life.

I want to keep electronics as tools I control – not the other way around, despite how difficult that is to actually live.

Unknown-3Maybe people who have the “phone basket” by the front door have good family dinners? Maybe those people who take forever to get back to me on email or text are actually living with the people in their house, and I should applaud it? Maybe it’s ok if my kid doesn’t have his own email to check at age seven?  After all, once the message-checking begins, it doesn’t end…forever!

“I had to apologize to God today, because I turned on my phone before reading my Bible,” a friend sharpened me as iron sharpens iron when she made this passing statement. How many times have quiet times, exercise, or my kids’ smiles been missed when I thought I needed to check “just one more thing” online?  I lightly enjoy Twitter and Facebook: I love hearing who had a baby, finding a tribute in memory of my friend, Jackie Lewis,  or seeing how many “liked” or “re-tweeted” my son’s April Fool’s joke on me. But the hourglass doesn’t stop dropping sand when I get distracted looking at the other threads completely unrelated to the priorities for my day!

images-3My husband has (brilliantly I might add) limited electronics’ use by our kids. It is easier to say “no” when they are four, than to try and backtrack on use when they are fourteen. If Google and Facebook limit the youngest age to be thirteen, it should at least flag more-conservative-than-the-Internet parents that maybe we should wait at least that long for them to get accounts.  (Besides, what is being taught when even parents use a fake birthdate to get their kid “around” the age rules?)  Really, our kids will have their own electronic leashes soon enough.  There is no right-of-passage back into childhood, so it is probably wise if parents choose to protect it.  Kids have the rest of their lives to live with the “electronic leash,” so there’s no harm in having “tween” years without its yoke!

We are affecting the next generation.

My 13-yr-old and I were discussing “maturity” and what it means, as I look for more symptoms of it in him. At one point, he answered, “It seems that ‘maturity’ means you check your phone more, and are more involved with emails.” He was serious in his observation of those “mature” older brothers and friends around him.

My daughter recently wrote an article for a magazine she created. Her random “creative writing,” had a point that was clear, especially since she (at age ten) is only on the outside of the electronic world, looking in.  Although I cannot say everyone can logistically apply her “one month” program, I thought it a fitting way to end this letter. (See her article, “Family Fun” below.)

Electronically your friend,

Terri

Romans 12:2:And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Related Articles

Family Fun

By Christine Brady

“Uh…a duck?” said Nate. The whole family laughed. Trivial Pursuit always had us giggling at the funny questions…and answers. Our family takes one month away from phones, iPods and computers. No e-mailing, texting or calling people…just family time. Nowadays, families need more time together…electronics are drawing them apart.

People who are always texting and e-mailing never really stop to look around them- to stare at the pretty clouds or to listen to the birds chirp sweetly.  My older brother got a FaceBook account and for a while, even he was distracted from the beautiful weather! Without phones and iPods, you would really appreciate the world around you.

Family time is very important. We learn to laugh, have fun, and we can forget bad things.  I think our family is the happiest of all when they take a month away from phones, iPods, computers and video games. For instance once I had a HORRIBLE ear infection that lasted from March to July.  July was our Un-plugged month, and I got distracted from my ear infection. Instead of hurting, my ear infection DISAPPEARED!!!! Family time is definitely important.

Families need more time together, and happier memories to look back at. I am encouraging YOU to take a month off electronics, as a test and see what happens. Do you want YOUR family laughing together? Simply take out electronics for a while! Trivial Pursuit is on its way…and so is lot of family fun!

19 thoughts on “Electronics Addiction: Another Leading Cause of “Busyness”

  1. Great post. We are alone together. It’s a new challenge to control the electronic flow and to be present at the moment where we are. We try to communicate with those who are far away and neglect those around us. Thanks to bring this topic to our attention.

  2. Thanks Terry, I so agree that we should use electronics to control our life, rather than letting them control us. Another concern is the growing trend of pornography viewing on mobile devices. Apparently not everyone is smart with their smart phone. Smart phones and tablets are giving children (and adults) access to adult content like never before, leading to addictions much worse than the electronic addiction you so well described. Our electronic devices can be a blessing or a curse. I have found there a spiritual component in addiction that most people are unaware of. There is an article titled “Why you can’ stop once you start” at http://wholesomelives.worpress.com that discusses this. While it is focused on porn addiction, I believe the principle applies to any addiction, and for some people electronic devices and the virtual world truly is an addiction, much more than just a bad habit. Thanks for all the good you do, God bless you!

  3. I love it Terri! It was actually refreshing yesterday when my phone died (ha…probably overuse) and I had to leave it in my car to charge. I was actually able to sit in a coffee shop and read uninterrupted. But yet as I looked around I noticed all the people sitting in front of their laptops, ear buds in, cell phone visibly next to their computer and people ‘sitting together’ but not communicating due to their electronic distractions. We certainly do have a problem but the first step is identifying it! Thanks to you (and Christine) for reminding us that it is possible to exist without these tools (at least for short periods of time) and have a lot more fun and fulfillment in the process.

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  5. Thanks Christine and Terri! What a great reminder of what my husband has been asking me for. I am an Information Technology Manager for an electric company and I am so attached to my electronics and am totally guilty of pretty much everything you mentioned, with the exception of facebook…….(although I have an account, I rarely am on it and block it on our network at work). The only non-electronic time we ever have is camping. I am going to make a very conscious effort to stop responding to the electronics and live in the moments with my only child remaining at home who is now 14 (and have a rule to make her do the same), and my husband. Even my dog and parrot.
    Thanks for the wake up call………..again.
    Sherry Fix – Colorado

  6. Ah yes, what did we do before cell phones. Great article bringing the necessity of being plugged in to light. I too have had that momentary panic attack of forgetting my phone at home. Then I breath and tell myself, ‘what did you do before cell phones?’ . . . . It is so sad to see a group of people together, but so alone and on their devices. I recently witnessed a family on vacation come in a restaurant and as a joke they all got logged into their devices and had the waitress take a picture of them. Then the most amazing thing happened, they all ‘unplugged’ from their devices and put them away and spent the rest of their breakfast enjoying their family time. Like Christine says, family time can ‘cure’ some ailments (like loneliness perhaps) . . .

  7. Thank you, Terri (and Christine!), for your wise and insightful thoughts.
    I have been learning lately (mostly from Chris’ audios!) to be ” fully present” where I am, to not pay attention to my smart phone when I am among people I care about. Those lessons gave me many moments of precious memories during the recent weeks of my mother’s illness prior to her death a few weeks ago.
    While my extended family would often play games or check FaceBook or whatever (or watch stuff on her television), my phone either stayed in my pocket or was used with available wifi for our church’s website so Mom could listen to a recorded sermon. It had its proper place, either silent and ignored, or as a tool to bless her final days.
    Ours is also a home that bans electronic devices from the dinner table. One too many meals interrupted by texts, calls and other electronic interruptions pushed my dear easy-going husband over the edge, and he laid down the law. Our adult kids hate it. Our grandchildren love it. Smart grandchildren!

  8. I was trying to read this blog but kept getting interrupted by a text conversation at the same time…; ). They truly are a “leash!” Tim Marks has always set a great example of how to differentiate time they are needed vs time they are abused and interrupting. It is hard to be a good father, spouse, business man, friend, neighbor, and the like when all your time is consumed with this ADDICTION! My phone rarely comes off silent before noon and as I type this, it is currently completely off, waiting for my kids to take a break from reading to play a game. I appreciate all you do, thank you. This is a MUST read. Living a life of priorities is not easy, but must include times of electronic “silence.”

    TODAYS THE DAY

    Tim Jarvinen

  9. The time after evening worship is a busy time of teeth brushing showers and finishing up chores. I use that time to use the computer and listen to CDs while I wait for them to be ready for thier goodnight kisses. My thirteen year old has begun using free texting from her kindle to let me know she’s out of the shower and ready for me to come tuck her in. Just last night I told my 15 year old she needed to download the app because texting her in her room from downstairs would cut down on the shouting from the bottom of the stairs when she’s busy with an art project behind closed doors.

    Using the silent or vibrate ring tones helps when I need to be reminded the phone is for my convenience and not everyone else’s. And because of my tendency toward tech addiction (candy crush saga) I have decided that I can’t afford a smart phone, and it’s not just because of the money. Being forced to climb the stairs to use the computer or beg a tablet off one of the kids helps me waste less time and keep technology as a slave and not a master.

  10. Our pastor asked us to sacrifice something this week if we hadn’t already given something up to remember the sacrifice of Jesus. I chose not looking at my phone in the car. The first day, I was surprised at how many times I reached for it out of habit. It really made me realize how tied to technology I really am. Thank you for this post.

  11. This really resonates with me. My oldest child just turned nine, so we aren’t yet in the weeds when it comes to technology. She does not have an email account, she is not allowed to text, and she does not have a phone. And she won’t. For a long time. But I know that this era of parenting is lurking around the corner, and I already worry about how we’ll manage it. I’m one of the guilty ones who checks her phone at every stop light! My habits were bad before I started blogging, but blogging has made them worse. I’m trying so hard not to be tethered to my phone, to put it down, and set a “technology free” example for my kids when we’re spending time together. I don’t want to be that family I often see in restaurants where all five of them are heads-down, texting on their phones instead of enjoying fellowship and community with one another. Thanks for this article that provides me with some additional encouragement!

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  13. Perfect timing Terri! This comment is before reading the any of this. I’m on lunch break and planned to read but got distracted by that tiny blue light on my phone. I tapped my Facebook app and thus was the first thing on my news feed! God’s sense of humor in teaching me to practice integrity I think! So thank you Terri! And now I’ll save this page for reading later and get into The iNNOVATOR book.
    God bless,
    Steve Davanzati

  14. Great article! At age 72, I spend a good part of my day on my computer (laptop). We do not always have a good cell signal so am not as glued to my phone as you talked about but it is growing. Yes, I often feel guilty if I miss an email or a facebook comment that is important. It is strange that actually picking up the ole’ fashioned telephone to communicate is going by the wayside. We have caller ID so we can screen calls. It is a crazy world at times. Family time is so important… my electronics helps me stay in touch with them but I even get frustrated at times because they don’t post often enough. All our children and grandchildren live a great distance from us… like in different states so that is one of my excuses for using electronics so much. I also use electronics to keep up with my business… it is very much an online business. Thanks for the article! Changing times.

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