Does technology pull us apart or bring us together? How to find the perfect balance?

In a recent movie an unsettling scenario is served up for anyone with a smartphone.

Seven friends come together for a dinner party and the host suggests a game. Everyone must put their phone on the table for the duration of dinner.

Every text they receive is read out and every call answered on speaker. As the dinner unfolds the secret lives of the guests are exposed, shattering friendships and leaving relationships in smoking ruins.

It’s a clever and topical theme that the movie brutally reinforces – with devastating consequences for the participants.

So does technology pull us apart or bring us together? Are we really living too much of our lives through electronic devices? How do we find our perfect balance?

Fear of missing out

Business futurist Morris Miselowski believes the answers to these vexing questions are more anthropological than technological.

“I don’t believe technology is the issue,” Morris said, “I believe humans are the issue. What we have created is a world where we have a fear of missing out. This entire habit that we have created is really only nine years old for most people because it took the [arrival of the] smartphone for the vast majority of the population.

“Up until that point we didn’t do this. We carried a mobile phone with us but nobody could answer or receive emails; nobody thought about searching online for anything. It just wasn’t something that was done. So we have created a habit for us in a very, very short space of time,” he said.

As technology becomes more omnipresent in our lives, paradoxically we are learning to moderate ourselves.

Our priority as technology users should be the quality of our engagement with it and this is where moderation comes in.

Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer has developed a concept called “Digital Nutrition™” that is designed to promote healthy and sustainable technological habits.

“It’s all about how you use it and for what purposes,” Jocelyn said. “Many would argue that social media is making people anti-social – preferring online relationships and communications to IRL [in real life],” she said.

However, often we see benefits to our sense of community, identity and sense of belonging arise from our use of digital tech. By creating forums for people to share information, passions and interests, technology can help create a “village” of likeminded individuals.

“The use of digital devices and the internet is most positive when it is used to connect and empower relationships, and to share information and ideas,” Jocelyn said, “When technology is used to escape ‘reality’ or unpleasant feelings, or to medicate or pacify being present to ourselves, it can be problematic.”

The use of digital devices and the internet is most positive when it is used to connect and empower relationships, and to share information and ideas.

One trick with understanding the allure of technology is realising that it can play into the brain’s “pleasure centre”. Neurologically our behavior is often guided by action followed by reward. Whether it be gaming or gaining “likes” on social media the more we perceive reward the more inclined we are to repeat those actions.

However, applications and websites that track and promote mindfulness, memory retention and health goals, for example, can greatly boost our sense of wellbeing and achievement by playing more positively into our cerebral reward systems.

Everything in moderation

Your parents, like many, probably told you “everything in moderation”.

“The average person pulls out their phone about 250 times a day,” Morris said, “The notion of being constantly attached to it. We need to cut the umbilical cord. It doesn’t need to master us.

”There are no hard-and-fast rules about how much time with technology is optimal, so finding a balance is a deeply personal exercise.

Where some people subscribe to the idea of enforced “sabbaticals”, such as weekends when laptops and phones are turned off, others happily engage with technology in their daily lives without it becoming problematic.

“Technology is a tool, no more than a hammer or a screwdriver,” Morris said. “What that optimal time is depends on each person, their circumstances and what they’re trying to achieve from using technology,” Morris said.

By: Journey Australia Staff | 18/10/2016