I have an addiction. I am not trying to place such an importance on my addiction to lessen the difficulties faced by others with other addictions, but this is a pretty big one for me and it has negatively changed my life.
I am addicted to social networking, texting, surfing the World Wide Web, and looking at the screens of my laptop and cellphone. I can’t imagine not logging into Facebook countless times a day, or looking at my phone to see if I have received a text, or checking my email many times in one day.
I am grateful for the ease with which I can communicate with family and friends who don’t live nearby thanks to technology, but I am pretty sure I could go without seeing someone’s tenth selfie of the week, or a status update of what they fed their cat. Yet, I continue to waste time viewing newsfeeds, status updates, and tweets.
In the past, I would get quite annoyed when I would schedule time with friends or family and they would spend time texting or looking at their phones rather than communicating with me; I thought it was rude. Actually, I still think it is rude and annoying, the only thing that has changed is that I am one of those people who can’t go half an hour without grabbing my cellphone and looking at it; or texting someone else when I have great people to talk to right in front of me.
I don’t know what I do with all that time I spend with my face buried in the screen of my cellphone or laptop. A lot of the time, I don’t have anything pressing to do or complete; I just surf, scroll, and waste a whole lot of time.
I know my family notices my addiction. My kids don’t say too much, but I can tell by the look on their faces. I jokingly say I am hooked and make light of the situation with my friends and family. But I don’t know if anyone knows how disappointed I am with what my life looks and feels like now. It is very different from what my life was like before this addiction.
Before my addiction, I talked to my kids more without interruptions; they had my complete attention. They talked more and I listened better.
I could remember what people said to me because I focused on them when they were talking. I could concentrate better on what was in front of me.
The quality of my time spent with people was better. I was a better friend, mother, and wife.
I read more books. I spent more time with my family. I went out and enjoyed nature more. My life felt balanced.
Now, my kids must sometimes fight to get my complete attention. They don’t talk as much as they used to. I don’t listen as well as I used to.
I have a difficult time recalling what people say to me. It is difficult to concentrate or to give my entire attention to what is in front of me.
The first thing I do in the morning is grab my cellphone and check emails and my Facebook news feed. The last thing I do at night is place my cellphone beside me after surfing the internet.
I have doubled back home to retrieve my forgotten cellphone at the risk of being late for work.
I start to feel uncomfortable and far removed from the world if I don’t have an internet connection or my cellphone close by.
Now, I am distracted with thoughts of when I will be able to look at my phone or text someone back, or log into Facebook for the tenth time in one day, or … UGH!!!
The scary thing is how quickly my family and I have adjusted to this addiction. There were more comments from my family in the beginning about putting the phone away or about how much time I was spending on my laptop. Now, less is said and more is done without me.
What did I gain? Nothing, really. But I have missed out on a lot. I have missed out on paying attention to the people who are most important to me. I have missed out on opportunities to make them feel like they matter.
I have missed out because I am not here now. I am not fully present and aware. I am everywhere else except where my body is. My thoughts and focus are on other people’s lives far removed from my own family’s lives.
Sometimes, I wonder if it is possible to re-establish a connection with what is in front of me. Sometimes, I have my doubts and when I carry those doubts I put off trying to take control of my addiction.
If this addiction is making me do things that I never thought I would do, it might only be a matter of time before I start doing things that are dangerous and life threatening. I get angry when I see people texting and driving. But will it only be a matter of time before I am guilty of that too?
There are so many stories of people being killed in texting and driving accidents. If I continue to live unaware of what this addiction is doing to me, I could end up being one of those stories: taking the life of an innocent child who was just trying to cross the street, or pinning someone under my vehicle at a crosswalk because I was paying more attention to my phone than I was to driving, or killing a cyclist on the highway, or hurting my own children while in the back seat of my car!
It’s difficult to think about those things but it happens too many times.
So today, I will start my journey to commit and reconnect to the living, breathing, beautiful people right in front of me. I will try to remain present and aware. I will create a plan to spend less time looking at a screen and more time looking at the wonderful things and people in my life.
Technology is great in many ways, but is there any way you could disconnect from it in little ways and reconnect with life?
Lori Q. McGavin is a Saskatoon freelance writer. Her column appears every fourth Friday in rotation with Jessica Iron Joseph, Sharon Thomas and Kevin Joseph. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org