Have you checked your email, looked at your phone, or visited a social media site within the past few minutes? Do you refresh your email, glace at your phone, and check your Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/LinkedIN accounts 10+ times a day?
If so, you are not alone! Much research and studies have shown a growing trend supporting the idea that people are becoming more and more addicted to their BlackBerry’s, iPhone’s, laptop and email communication. Everyday we see people unaware of the world around them or to be out with someone who’s “enjoying” dinner yet they constantly check the phone to “see what time it is” when they are actually checking email!
According to a Wall Street Journal article, “smartphoniacs” are a diverse group of the successful and powerful, busy professionals, college students, and teenagers—all of whom communicate NONSTOP! Justifications for such a habit can include waiting for the information in emails to complete projects, or using email/networking sites as a way to take a mini-break during your day, or that as the CEO or executive of a company you must always be on the ball and reply to all messages instantaneously.
Professor Nada Kakabadse of Northampton University says that being interrupted from a primary task or project by a pop-up alert of a new email, has a negative effect on work productivity. An email might direct readers to another link, or you might decide to check your other emails that are stacked up, take a quick peek on Facebook, type out a Tweet, and it may be some time before you get back to your project. Her research shows that in getting back to the main task, “you will suddenly feel low energy …become clumsy…and have spatial disorder.”
CNN did a story back in 2007 when Blackberry service was unavailable for 11 hours to the distress and frustration of millions of users. Dr. Paul Levy, President of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, joked on his blog that the hospital “set up a crisis center…staffed by our Psychiatry Department” due to this “national disaster” which caused intense withdrawal. Dr. Levy admits that he was also a “Crackberry addict,” but gave it up after noticing differences in manners and relationships.
In 2008, AOL conducted a survey on Email Addiction which showed that 46% of users admitted they are hooked on email. Imagine what that percentage would be if it took into account those users who are in denial? New York, Houston, and Chicago are the top three cities hooked on email.
So, with numbers informing us that 41% of adults also check their email first thing in the morning (even before brushing their teeth) is this habit taking us away from “real-life” interaction and therefore having a negative impact on our lives? Or, are we able to manage email/communication effectively without getting to the point of yearning for the next fix? Well, that is something only an individual can assess of themselves—if you cannot be honest with yourself, whom can you be honest with?
Experts agree that not only is efficiency affected by constant interruptions in checking your email and devices, but it may actually be bad for your health if you are checking close to your bedtime because the information you are getting is actually “revving up” your brain, making it more difficult and stressful for you to sleep peacefully. This habit can be quite destructive to personal relationships as well. Quite often wives, husbands, children, and friends of “smartphoniacs” are competing for the attention of their loved one.
Here are steps for those who want to have more control and not be attached to their phones and computers 24/7.
1. Write a list of things you would like to do if you had more time—things that would make you happy such as dance lessons, spending time with the family, being more in touch with friends, wine tasting, etc. (We’ll come back to this point…)
2. Set a time period each day in which you will NOT check your email. If you have a lunch hour—use it to do something other than work and reply to emails. Take a walk (keeping your phone in your pocket or purse where you are not tempted to look at it every other second), enjoy your lunch with the computer screen off, catch up with a colleagues, etc. Also, once you get home, give yourself a specific time in which the computer shuts down and the phone goes on silent. NOW, getting back to the point above, you have extra time—so you can take those lessons or spend more time with your friends/family.
3. Set aside a “No Email” day—this is a tough one! Or you can start off by compromising—check your email once on a Saturday morning, and then not again for the rest of the day. (Again, getting back to the first point, use the time you are saving in front of the computer or looking at your phone to hang out with your friends & family, or try some new activities, network, exercise, etc.)
Creating a work/life balance is extremely important these days when it seems information everywhere is consuming our lives and we must always be on our phones/computers to keep up. However, don’t forget about the other passions in your life—they are equally important to keep you happy, energetic, and fulfilled. Don’t freak out if your internet service goes down, or your phone is not getting access to the internet. Try to think of those times as a little gift from the technology gods so you can stop for a few minutes and see the world around you.
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