In many ways, being tech-connected in the 21st century means being disconnected from humanity.
Certainly everyone has a story about how the digital world has let them down – the computer that crashed, taking the entire project with it; the critical presentation that disappeared into the ether; the sensitive text that went to 100 people instead of one.
Most of us recognize that human error – our error – is often to blame, all while thinking technology is safe and dependable.
So how well do you handle it when technology fails you? And what should you do when it does?
First, take a deep breath and remind yourself that the world is not going to come to an end. (If it does, however, it is your fault.) Second, force yourself to slow down as you try to figure out what happened. If necessary, walk away or even leave it until tomorrow.
Calling an expert is both a common-sense approach and could save you a whole lot of heartache and time. (Even if the first thing the expert says is, “Did you turn it off and on again?”)
But some simple habits can save you a whole lot of stress. If you are dependent on a computer, remember that backups, backups, backups are essential. You know what it feels like to spend hours on a project, only to have it disappear into the digital heavens, never to be seen again (yes, it is floating around up there and you’ll probably run across it in a decade or so). Another good habit is to save, save, save.
Using both of these approaches on a regular basis will ensure you won’t be at a complete loss when technology fails.
And remember that ultimately, while technology can assist you, it cannot replace imagination, dedication and hard work. Your software may help you express your ideas, but you must have those ideas in the first place.
And technology can’t replace real human contact, even though many of us behave as if the cellphone could.
So here are some tips to help you wean yourself of hyper-dependence on all things tech:
- Stop taking selfies of yourself and pushing them out to the world. The occasional snap is OK to share with friends and family, but really, the rest of the world doesn’t care one whit about what you look like at a restaurant/sports event/party/nothing in particular. In fact, it all makes you seem quite shallow and self-centred.
- Stop depending on GPS to direct you to the end of the block. There are such things as maps (repeat after me: maps), which can be read (repeat after me: read) and will show you how to get to exactly where you want to go, not merely somewhere in the vicinity.
- If you are a texting maniac, try using the phone to actually speak with someone, or even (gasp!) talk face to face. You can communicate so much more when you are not limited by fumbling fingers, and the chances of being misunderstood decrease substantially.
- If you are a tweeting fool, remember that it’s not necessary to share your opinion on absolutely everything, especially when you are woefully uninformed on whichever subject you’ve decided to spout off about.
- Lastly, do you have any idea how rude it is when you are talking with someone and your cellphone rings and you answer it (one finger up, “Just a minute, I have to take this”)? The person with whom you are speaking has every right to walk away.
It may take a while for you to learn that you do not need to be in contact with everyone 24-7, and that technology does not rule your life. Simply turning off your phone may be difficult at first, so you can start by leaving it on but trying not to sneak a look at who is calling/texting. Baby steps.
It’s worth the effort, though, when you realize that life goes on and there’s a big exciting real world out there just waiting to be explored. A little less dependency on technology can bring great rewards.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.