Is technology making us too accessible?

It’s undeniable that technology has revolutionized the way we communicate with one another. At this point it’s almost cliché to talk about that fact – it’s typically what you say to a 75-year-old when you’re shooting the breeze – they say something like, “Wow technology really is amazing… I was able to FaceTime my granddaughter this morning!” And you just nod and smile, feeling like FaceTime is old hat.

But, the other piece of technology that’s undeniable is the way that it’s made us constantly available when it comes to personal communication. Work is one thing – at least there’s an out of office or designated time off for most people. But when it comes to personal texts and calls, we are always “on the clock”. Generally speaking, people expect close to immediate responses while texting and when that’s not the case they start to wonder why they haven’t received a reply. Are you mad at them? Are you avoiding them? Are you too busy for them? Do you not care about them? Is there someone else you’d rather be talking to?

To be a sane person though, you need to be able to “go off the grid” without becoming the jerk that never responds, and the lack of that ability creates anxiety in many people. According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, nearly one-fifth of Americans identified the use of technology as a very or somewhat significant source of stress. On a typical non-work day 34% of people surveyed said they were constantly connected to at least one device and 47% said they were often connected. As quoted in a TONIC article about the anxiety involved in texting culture, Natasha Schull, a professor at New York University said, “There’s a huge amount of chance and uncontrollability. You can’t really rest when you have an action out in the world and you haven’t gotten the feedback yet. You get in a heightened state of agitation.” Most of us know how it feels to send off a risky text and wait in agony for a response.

So –– what do you think? How do you balance the ever-present importance of technology with the sanity that comes from being out of reach?

Ann Keeling