A Technology Pause


I would never have described myself as someone who was a “techie.”  I was a late arrival on Facebook.  I only got a Twitter account so that I could use it for work.  I held out from getting a smart phone for a looong time.  In fact, it’s been barely a year since I caved joined the twenty-first century.  Now that I have one, I am very accustomed to it.  I glance at it at least once an hour during the day to check email or pop in on Twitter.  I’m online a lot–writing this blog, sharing research on Twitter, looking at my cousin’s kids on Facebook.

An Accidental Pause

Last week, I forgot my phone.  It was amazing to me how much I got done during the day, how focused my brain was, how much more quickly I got my notes done.  It was also revealing that my initial reaction to not having it was a burst of anxiety.  I realized that, as much as I like to think about technology as something that affects other people, I am pretty influenced by it myself.

Since then, I have read Jonathan Field’s thoughtful article about the ways that we allow our technology to take over family or friend time.  I have read multiple articles like this one from the American Psychological Association that talk about how our technology has made it difficult to separate work and home.  I have been thinking a lot about the costs of being distracted.  And I have paid attention, both to my own behavior and to the things I am hearing from my patients about technology in their lives.

What I’m Hearing

Here’s a sample of what I’m hearing.  As you read these statements, I’m challenging you to see if you can hear yourself.

  • I don’t even realize when I’m checking my phone.
  • My iPad goes with me everywhere.
  • I’m anxious if I can’t check my email (check in on Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
  • I don’t have downtime to just think or check in with myself.
  • I am always connected.

That’s just a few.  Are you in there anywhere?  If so, I am inviting you to think about your own technology pause.

An Intentional Pause

I think that there are lots of amazing things that we can do with technology right now.  We can get informed, connected, entertained, distracted, inspired . . . the list is endless.  And many of those things are good stuff.  Obviously, I believe in the benefits of technology, or I wouldn’t be writing these posts.

But I also believe that we don’t fully understand the impact or costs of technology yet.  And I believe that our smartphones and tablets are pretty seductive–they invite us to be plugged in and distracted.  Since my accidental pause, I have been trying to carve out time every day when I’m unplugged.  Sometimes that means that I’m out for a walk without any technology to distract me from what I’m seeing and hearing and smelling.  Sometimes that means that I turn off the laptop in the evenings to be more present.  It’s not always a huge chunk of time.  But I’m doing it every day.  And I am much more aware of the impact of technology.  Now I’m using it by choice and not by habit.  And that’s what I’m inviting you to do.  You’re the author of your own pauses.  Create them in whatever way is most meaningful to you.  But I’d love to hear what your pauses look and feel like.

And if you want suggestions for a more “full-immersion” pause, you can check out this description of the “Screen-Free Week” campaign.


Image Credit: Zen Rock Garden by DominusVobiscum via Flickr

7 thoughts on “A Technology Pause

  1. This is a great post, Ann. I could definitely see myself in the descriptions you gave and I’ve noticed the feelings of anxiety that pop up sometimes when I can’t (or have deliberately chosen not to) check my phone.

    My husband and I leave our phones in the car when we go out to eat, and we’ve taken turns reminding the other person not to give in to the temptation. I turn my phone on vibrate when I’m with other people (e.g. getting coffee with a friend.) My newest strategy is just to let my phone die so that it has to be on the charger away from wherever I am in the house, especially when I’m playing with my daughter in the evenings and on the weekends.

    1. Rachelle,

      I appreciated the strategies that you shared. They are all very practical–and they suggest some mindfulness about your choices when you’re interacting with your technology. I think that the mindfulness is key to being successful in integrating new things into your life without compromising your core values.


    1. Kathy,

      I notice that when I take breaks from the technology, I’m more productive both during the break and when I come back. It’s like the time away lets me refocus both on tech tools and other parts of life.


  2. Dear Ann,
    This is such a great post. About six months ago I stopped writing my notes on the computer because I realized that I would interrupt myself by checking Facebook or whatever and not get my work done! I’m more efficient when writing them by hand. I’ve also learned not to check my e-mail on my phone when I plug it in just before bed. Often something shows up there that doesn’t help sleep. At home I also cherish those times when we are all “unconnected,” available for conversation, listening to music and reading together, or watching a TV show together.
    Thanks for raising our awareness.

    1. Carolyn,

      I love those “unconnected” times. One of my requests for Mother’s Day was time at a new park–away from the gadgets and devices. So many of the folks who have responded to this post have talked about how much more efficient we are when we’re unplugged. It’s ironic that our convenient devices can make us so much less effective.


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