In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we discussed the landscape of technology in our society today. The reality is that work is no longer five days a weeks, eight hours a day. It is constant and ever changing. What makes it possible? Technology. The affect on individuals is that we have become accustom to connecting via technology and so when we "leave" work the cycle continues. What do I mean?
In simplest terms, we are creatures of habit. Aaron Beck originated Cognitive Behavioral Therapeutic, or CBT for short, back in the 1960s. He was working with people troubled by their negative thoughts and emotions. He found individual’s thoughts led to feelings which led to actions. He discovered individuals were cyclical when it came to this. They developed habits. Many habits can be helpful, getting us through our day, just like technology for a business organization. While others habit are not beneficial and even detrimental to our well being. Knowing that some habits are not beneficial and can be hard to break, leaves us a potentially troubling mixture. A mixture that is brought up in conversation by countless parents in discussing the concerns of their family - especially in regards to children's poor behavioral habits. So this brings us to, what are you and your family’s habits when it comes to technology?
As a means to ascertain this information I propose a few steps:
First, take inventory of ALL the electronic devices in your home. This will be helpful to establish a complete picture.
Next, identify who uses each device. The family dog sitting by the couch during the evening news doesn't count.
Lastly, keep a log for one or two weeks of everyone's daily usage. An alternative would be to estimate how much time (weekly) each individual spends on these various devices (avoid double counting - i.e. TV/DVD, TV/Netflix). Decide what works best for you.
Yes, all of this will take time. Anything worth doing typically does. I am reminded of the old management adage, you can't manage what you don't measure. So, unless you measure something you don't know if it is getting better or worse. You can't manage for improvement if you don't measure to see what is getting better and what isn't.
At it's core all of this isn't even about technology nor measuring usage. It is about family. Relationships. Personal connection. The countless families that I have spoken with in and outside of counseling speak about disconnect and broken relationships. Technology is simply one of the many wedges the talk about that creates the division. How often do you go out to eat and you notice everyone a nearby table where everyone is on their device. Perhaps that is your family at times. How much time is spent connecting with your device rather than the people right in front of you?
I recall over a year ago at the end of one session the parent of a family I was working with turned to be and said, "Mark, thank you for playing games with us". Yes, we played games as part of our time. I do so with many of the families I work with. This family in particular had lost touch with one another long ago and they forgot how to enjoy each other's company. There attempts for family movie time were not doing the trick. Reintroducing the family to playing games paid huge dividends for them. They began to laugh and smile more. What followed in session was more open communication and healing relationship wounds. And that was the intent all the entire time. I will long remember that simple yet sincere compliment.
So as we wrap this series I leave you with one last figure. 168. That is the number of hours in a week. What percentage of time do you (and each family member) spend looking at electronic devices? Take a look and then ask yourself and your significant other...are we addicted to the glow??