Finding Your Balance
There’s never a moment you won’t find me tethered to the Internet via iPhone, laptop, netbook, or Kindle. Sometimes, I’m connected by all of them at once. But for all of the entertainment, information access, and cross-country connections technology affords us, it can really do a number on your soul and psyche ... if you let it. Here are three ways to keep today’s ever-evolving new media tools from re-wiring you:
Force Your Focus
If digital distraction is your drug of choice, you — like me — are constantly checking email, Twitter, Facebook, and text messages so you don’t miss a single thing. While new media multitasking is great, science studies show it may not always be best for our brains. In June, The New York Times reported that scientists have discovered that online multitasking may lead to fractured thinking and lack of focus when offline.
Stanford University communications professor Clifford Nass said in the report that the constant new media barrage is like “catnip,” which I think is a pretty good analogy. I, for one, am easily distracted when plugged in. I have to suppress the overwhelming urge to check email while I’m in meetings, or check-in to Foursquare when I’m dining out with my granny. Does this sound familiar?
Chic Geek solution? Force yourself to finish the task at hand without pausing to peep your Smartphone. When reading a book, finish the chapter before you Tweet. During playtime with the kiddos, refrain from texting your hubby about dinner options. When writing a memo, turn off your email notifications, and don’t read new email until you finish. Technology may be “re-wiring our brains,” but with a little discipline, we can prevent it from shorting out our productivity.
I’ve had many a friend call me in tears after being inundated with Facebook status updates touting the overwhelming joy/wedding bells/baby bliss/career advancements of others. Too much keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ Facebook walls can wreck a girl’s self-esteem.
The connection to and support of others through new media can be a powerful source of encouragement. But one day you may find that Facebook lurking only magnifies your heartbreaking bout with infertility; that incoming Tweets are merely 140-character reminders of your unemployment; and that online dating site simply repeats that while others are finding “the one,” you still haven’t.
Chic Geek solution? Perusing old high school friends’ and college buddies’ profiles may be great fun, but if your heart, soul, or mental health is fragile right now, you need to take a break. The inherent compare and contrast — and the tendency to dwell on it — that accompanies constantly reading about others’ lives isn’t healthy for you, and it isn’t fair to your friends. The grass always seems greener on the other side, even when “the other side” is comprised of pixels.
Leave a Morsel of Mystery
Ladies, do not entertain peer pressure or guilty feelings about not wanting to share every detail about your marriage, divorce, pregnancy, childbirth, job, and/or belief system on the Internet. Some personal things should remain sacred.
There was a time when we nurtured special relationships comprised of a small circle of friends and family. The circle was the first to know our secrets and most intimate feelings. The circle knew more about us than anyone else, and it was a privilege that was never abused. I have always considered the “inner circle” and its bond a good thing; I believe it’s essential.
Chic Geek solution? If the small circle is your best friend, then treat the Web as an acquaintance. Lean on your actual friends and family for help, attention, advice, and encouragement. Meanwhile, share just enough online to keep virtual friends updated, making sure not to upload your entire diary. Being active online doesn’t mean you have to expand your circle; in actuality, you’ll have to work a little harder to keep it closed.
The key here, ladies, is to maintain your original hardwiring while still enjoying the benefits of technological advancements. Everything in moderation and knowing your boundaries ... two crucial rules of thumb for new media merriment!
The specter of heredity has lurked in the darker corners of Cheryl Perkins’ mind for as long as she can remember.
Her mother died of colon cancer four years ago, and nearly all of the women on her mother’s side of the family had hysterectomies between age 45 and 50 because of cancer diagnoses.
To read this and other Her Well-Being stories, click here.