Each decade, we become increasingly reliant on technology and incorporate it more into our daily lives. With everything from work and communication, to entertainment and art available at the touch of a finger, there is rarely a reason to not be on a smartphone, computer, or tablet. This constant interaction and dependence on technology can lead to what is called technology overload. As defined by researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2005, technology overload is “device proliferation and/or information overload that causes cognitive and physical burdens on human beings due to the use of multiple gadgets with multiple functions to accomplish multiple tasks in everyday activities.” As you can imagine, in the last 20 years technology has dominated our lives more and more.
Our daily use of technology during the pandemic has soared to a new level. With many companies, organizations, and schools relying on various virtual meeting platforms and remote learning/working methods; it is difficult to be away from technology. I spent my first year and a half of college learning through a screen and meeting with professors and classmates virtually. Spending hours in front of screens was draining my energy and motivation, and I had to learn how to manage this technology overload.
Here are five tips that helped me in dealing with technology overload:
Do Not Disturb
Set your phone on do not disturb when you need time away from your phone. Hearing and seeing those notifications pop up can make it all to tempting to resist checking. On both iPhones and Androids, you can customise your do not disturb settings in a variety of ways. This includes different types of do not disturb (such as sleep mode), setting scheduled times where it automatically turns on, and customising your settings so that some notifications can still get through. This way, if you absolutely must, you can allow specific contacts to bypass this mode in case of an emergency.
A lot of us tend to be on multiple devices at once. Do you ever have the television playing while working on your laptop and glancing at your phone waiting for that text back? No? Just me? Alright, well if you do, not only does this heavily contribute to technology overload, but it also makes you less efficient at the tasks you are trying to complete. Instead, try using just one screen at a time and only switch if you’ve finished a task.
Tech Free Time
Try to participate in tech free activities. When reading, choose a physical book, newspaper, or magazine over their electronic counterparts. Play instruments, make art, play board games, go on walks, meditate-engage in activities that don’t rely on technology and allow you to have that time away from a screen.
Tech Free Meals
Use your meal time as a break from technology. If you can, sit down for family dinners at home and put all phones away. Take your lunch break as a time to catch up with coworkers and friends, do some light reading, or go out for your meal but don’t keep working on your computer or scroll through instagram.
Track Your Time
Using the screen time feature can be an extremely helpful way to cut down on specific activities that are driving your screen time up. Do you lose time scrolling through Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram? Set a daily amount of time you want to dedicate to that. When the time is up, your phone will display a message saying that your time is up. Now, there is a way to bypass this with a password. If, like me, you find this too tempting, have a friend or family member set the password so that you have no way of bypassing it.
Another way to reduce technology use is by tracking it daily. You can do this with your phone’s built in tracker, a web browser extension such as Toggl Track, or this free chart the National Instituites of Health (NIH) provides as part of their We Can! Campaign. We tend to underestimate the time we spend with technology, so tracking it with hard numbers can help you evaluate what you need to do differently.