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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 24 April, 2014

Column: How to take your life back from technology

Mobile phones, email, Facebook and Twitter can make us more anti-social, writes Ciara Conlon – but that doesn’t mean we should ditch them.

Ciara Conlon

WE LIVE IN an age where leaving the house without your phone brings about the same feeling of dread as that dream where you walk into work naked.

Gadgets and gizmos have become integral parts of our lives, the infinite possibilities of what we can do with them dazzle us and coax us to engage with them even as we walk, talk to others or wait for a bus. Have we become enslaved to their ringtones and tweeting delights? Or can we continue to benefit from them as they open our minds to the wonders of the world beyond our living room sofa?

‘I have to take this’

How many times have you tried to have a conversation with someone who was more interested in their phone? How many times has someone answered a call while speaking to you? “I’m sorry I really have to take this” while pointing to the phone? We have all done it; did we really need to take it, or was it too tempting to swipe and say hi?

It wasn’t too long ago that bringing a mobile phone home for the weekend was a disturbing intrusion of private life. They have now made their way into the bedroom and (I have heard) can sometimes replace the post coital cigarette. The even scarier thing is, the next generation won’t even realise how bad mannered it is not to give someone your full attention. So many grow up with parents who are more interested in what someone tweeted that what happened in school today.

‘Antisocial networks’

The New York Times has referred to social networks as antisocial networks, tempting us more and more away from the real social engagement and interaction. My 16-year-old son no longer cares when he is grounded: he has Facebook, Twitter, instant messenger, Viber and What’s App to connect with his friends. If his friends are busy he can engage soldier friends on Xbox. He is never alone and never bored.

Being constantly connected can lead to a massive leakage of time. If you are one of those people who gets notified when someone posts on Facebook, mentions you on Twitter or posts an article you have no interest in on LinkedIn, you are allowing the external world to control how you spend your time and what you focus your attention on. It’s time to take back the control of your life and your time.

So what can we do?

  1. Turn off all notifications on your email, Facebook, Twitter and any other social media. By doing this you will immediately begin to reduce the impact of information overload.
  2. Schedule time for social media, go to these sites when you decide it’s time to go not when some random bell beckons you there.
  3. Take it a step further and have times when you switch off, close your email, your browser and any other potential distractions. Go somewhere that has no internet.

It’s obvious to all that technology will continue to play a major part in our future. There is no reason to fear this fact – the advantageous are too numerous. New media and new technologies bring with them many great advancements in human connectivity and globalisation.

The secret to our success as balanced technology users is to stop being reactive, allowing ourselves to be ushered from one location to the next and getting distracted from what we need to do right now. The secret is to stay in control, to treat our friends and family with the respect they deserve, to make time for connectivity and time for silence.

As long as we remain the master and make all the decisions about how we spend our time, we can relax in the knowledge that technology is a powerful force for positive change.

Read more articles by Ciara Conlon here>

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