Is the Technology in Your Life Working for You or Against You?

24/7 TechSome weeks ago, I shared some thoughts on the power of food marketing. I claimed its messages and images are so carefully crafted to pique our interests and to influence our associations with certain foods that none of us (who are exposed) are entirely immune. I’ve been thinking lately about the larger applicability of this media principle and how it fits the realm of technology. The fact is, we live in an interesting age held in novel tension between in-person reality and technological representation. We see and experience “regular,” real-time living, and then we also regularly intake a selected, stylized version of just about everything associated with life – personal leisure, family doings, food selections, home appearances, relationship depictions, global events, etc. through our technological devices. The whole experiment is unprecedented in human psychology, yet it’s clear we’re drawn in – often further than we’d ever anticipate. Media forms and the status-bearing tools we use to access them claim an increasing and at times problematic place in our lives.

We cutting-edge moderns live with the same 24-hour day confines and same human physiology that requires genetically expected “nuisances” like sleep, sun, solitude, and face-to-face socialization as our Paleolithic ancestors did. Yet, at any given moment today’s generations have “the world” at their fingertips – an infinity of digital information and entertainment we’re told we must know or “must see” or must update. How – I venture many of us ask at some point – do people maintain these multiple “exo-worlds” (e.g. having seen every episode of the latest popular show, being constantly active on Facebook and other social media, mastering online games) in addition to living their own physical lives? The truth is, we all live on a moving continuum of choices. Likewise, we all live with technology. How much we live in (or even for) it, however, varies. Do we make it work for us as tool, or do we become its unwitting subject? At what point does technology (particularly media) use morph into overuse or abuse? Can it move from misuse to addiction? What does all this mean for a thoughtful Primal life?

While experts agree that technology addiction is clearly a growing problem, hard statistics are sketchy. Dr. Kimberly Young, author of Caught in the Net, proposes that approximately 12% of Americans show signs of “problematic” Internet use, for example, while the numbers can climb to 30% in parts of Asia, where Internet addiction is considered a greater problem. Part of the difficulty in pinning down the prevalence is the breadth of issues under the tech umbrella and the relatively recent development/general accessibility of many of these technologies. Internet addiction, for example, wasn’t included in the DSM-V (the 5th and recently updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), although online gaming addiction (generally considered a subset of Internet addiction, which itself is part of the larger label of technology addiction) was listed as a condition warranting further study and consideration.

In the absence of agreement on a clear-cut “addiction” definition, many experts prefer to talk in terms of compulsive or pathological use. Mental health professionals note that those with serious pathological use show signs of addiction, including withdrawal. The compulsion can be so strong that it significantly interferences with or takes over subject’s lives as they give up food, sleep and socialization to continue their time with their technology – whether it’s to play online games, view pornography, compulsively browse the Internet or specific social media. Researchers have noted abnormalities in the gray matter of those who use the Internet compulsively.

Some argue it’s a question of focus. We can’t be addicted to the Internet itself but perhaps can be to a kind of content/engagement found on it (e.g. gaming, pornography, gambling, shopping, social media). It’s a reasonable perspective. That said, there’s something compelling beyond a category of content that seems to have a hold on us. A University of Maryland study found that 80% of young adults, for example, experienced physical withdrawal symptoms similar to those of drug addicts (e.g. cravings, heart palpitations, anxiety attacks) when asked to go without their phones for a day. Another Time Magazine international survey showed that nearly 85% of adults couldn’t go for a day without access to our phones.

Yet, it’s not simply the presence of our devices but our perhaps collectively compulsive use of them that surprises. According to a Mobile Mindset Study done by the security app company Lookout, nearly 60% of us look at our phones at least once an hour. For those of us in the youngest group (18-34), that number jumps to almost 70%. Nearly three-quarters of us would be panicked if we lost our phones. More than half of us look at our phones in bed. Almost 40% of us check it while we’re on the toilet, more than a third of us use it while eating a meal with other people, and a quarter of us look at it while driving. While Lookout’s survey can’t claim the scientific gold standard, I have a hunch these ring pretty true. (What do you think?) If this picture doesn’t reflect a collective obsession, I’m not sure what would.

While I clearly conceptualize the difference between the use of technology and addiction to it, I’d also argue that there’s reason to question just how hazy the line has become between what we’re willing to constitute as “normal” versus abnormal use. We see the words technology addiction or Internet addiction and want to discount the whole premise or simply pin it on “those” people who must have other problems. (Indeed, research does suggest that those who qualify as Internet addicts, for example, do tend to have co-occurring conditions.)

Still, I’m going to rock the boat and question whether we can all fall prey to or require active vigilance against the addictive pull of technology. Just as food packaging and store design is set up to hook us, the lure of websites, games and social media show much more sophisticated strategy. Are we perhaps – with our relatively simple and predictable reward centers – playing with fire when we push the envelope online? We might convince ourselves we’re in control, but how many conversations with our kids got derailed or distracted because of something on our phones? How many nights did have we stayed up later than we wanted because we got sucked into online this or that?

Even if we’re not giving up sleep and sustenance, the fact is we may be compromising other elements of daily life. As many experts have noted in the last decade, technology is transforming even our intimate communication – and not necessarily for the better. In her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle critiques the dampening of personal connection and intimacy with the reliance on technological means of communication and entertainment. When our devices become our sources for leisure and contact, we inevitably deprive ourselves of deeper – more Primal – layers of rapport and attachment. Likewise, we may compromise other elements of health and self-care because of our technological time-sucks. What would our schedules and daily rhythms look like if we did without non-work-essential tech use (during our set work hours)? How much does it take before an indulgence turns into a pattern or at least something that takes too much time and energy to get over to be worth it?

The truth is, we inevitably give up a portion of “real-time” life when we venture to the technological plane of existence however many dozen times per day. Add to that the cognitive “transition” time when we bring ourselves back into the physical present after getting absorbed in our tech tools. No wonder so many of us get that fried, jangly feeling by the end of each day. It’s one wide expanse maybe worth leaving most days between the peace of the simple present and the overstimulation of a virtual world at our fingertips.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. What thoughts would you add about the use and abuse of technology in our culture? What choices do you make? What boundaries do you use for yourself and your kids? Have a great end to the week.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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76 thoughts on “Is the Technology in Your Life Working for You or Against You?”

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  1. I think the pull of the internet is completely true. I have cut out most of the useless social media from my life. I rarely am on Facebook anymore. I’ve given up talking to people about news articles on Yahoo comments (most of them seem to have the IQ and debate skills of a baked potato). I don’t even have cable and only watch a little Netflix at the end of the day.

    End result? I’m happier, less stressed, and have more time to write for my website!

    Social media, by and large, is a massive waste of your life. Unless you are pursuing something productive in it, you should limit/eliminate it.

    Can’t wait for the Friday testimonial!

    1. Not to mention electronics (as well as over-stuffed furniture) are the principal cause of “sitting disease.”

      1. I read this article while sitting on the toilet, creating a black hole of irony that sucked in the entire known universe. Your continued existence is just an illusion. Sorry. 🙁

    2. Literally the exact same thing here, identical… especially the sentiment regarding the intelligence of most other people 😉

      1. Yep. Something like half of all people have below average intelligence.

        1. Generally I find Youtube seems to have the highest concentration of haters and trolls and they all hate and troll each other. Sometimes I can’t help but read through the stupid arguments though..

    3. Your opinion of social media pretty much mirrors my own. Facebook may be worthwhile for a few things, such as finding a long lost friend, but it always seemed to me to be about self-absorbed people frantically searching for attention. As for finding out about deaths, illnesses, weddings, etc. on Facebook, I can’t think of a colder, less personal way to inform people of such important events. It took me all of two days to decide Facebook isn’t my bag. I closed my account and haven’t missed it.

      1. I deactivated my account near a couple years ago because I was spending too much time scrolling down the homepage as a time killer. I mentioned it on here, calling Facebook “a waste of time”. Shortly after I reactivated it because I use it a lot for communication. Essentially it’s my email and my lifeline to my family because I don’t see them much. Without it I’d basically be back in the stone age walking everywhere (or iron age perhaps, with my bicycle) just to find out what friends are up to or make plans with them. Sometimes I still scroll through when I’m bored or just relaxing on the computer. There’s usually something interesting or funny and I like to gather little tidbits of information on what old friends or my cousins are doing. I might not talk to them (or barely ever) but I do want a general idea of what/how they’re doing and feel a bit more connected to them that way. Occasionally I get carried away, hypnotized almost by the computer sort of like what a TV can do (look up TV and alpha brain waves – the flicker rate of the TV can put you in an alpha, receptive state that makes you more suggestive), and I feel like my brain is throwing in the towel and kicking its dirty feet up on the table with a beer, which is a good indication that I’ve probably done most of what’s worth doing on the computer and should head outside.

    4. Accurate observations. My life is media. I help companies launch products – that includes naming, taglines, packaging design, marketing materials, ecommerce, etc. I build websites and understand search engine optimization very well. So it’s my job to be connected. I have accounts on every major social network. I’m online all the time. I work everyday. Even when I’m not working I’m generally available. The internet has been the single most transformative event in my professional life. Nothing even comes close. My business literally depends on it and it allows me to work with companies all over the world from my home office. It’s central to allowing me to have the life I always dreamed of.

      But, my Facebook account is largely dormant, I almost never tweet nor do I follow anyone. I don’t use my Instagram account. I barely touch my Linked In profile.

      The internet and our 24/7 connectivity creates a false sense of urgency. This urgency to respond to virtual events has a tendency to displace our sense of urgency to respond to real events happening right in front of us.

      It’s impossible to escape it once you enter it’s world. The only option is to reduce exposure. The more exposure the more anxiety. The less exposure, the less anxiety.

      Even typing this is a colossal waste of time. I have a huge list of real things I need to do right now, yet here I am responding to a virtual event that will be forgotten and make zero difference in my life six hours from now.

      So I think it’s time to sign off for real and not post comments anymore. Love the MDA, but I think it’s time revert back to a passive reader.

      Thanks for the reminder Mark.

      1. Clay, I really enjoy your thoughtful comments. Maybe a few short ones now and then? We can’t all be passive or this community which helps so many would no longer exist.

        1. Well maybe just few. But I really got to watch it. I love my job, but it’s soooo easy to just blow off hours on the web, reading and posting. I can’t even keep up with my own blogs ( I blog about my field of work and fatherhood…not on the same blog). Thanks for the kind words.

  2. As a psychology professor we talk about internet addiction in my Drugs & Behavior class — it’s comparable to any other addiction regardless of what’s causing it. I know I tend to go through ‘withdraw’ if I’m not able to get online for a few days or check my phone. This is a good reminder to try and unplug more often!

    1. You’re a psychology professor?! My psych prof looked like an even older, even more withered Anne Ramsey. You’re hot, is basically what I am trying to say.

      1. Oh, for Pete’s sake. A woman tries to make an intellectually-interesting point, and right out the gate it gets reduced to her perceived sexual attractiveness…with bonus points for the derogatory comment re: the professor “of a certain age” you had back in college.

        As a woman, I really, really dislike seeing interesting comments from other women reduced to an unsolicited assessment of their hotness.

        You can do better.

        1. And I find it equally disturbing that you fail to see the light-hearted, nearly whimsical, manner in which I simply complimented a woman on her looks… an action that, in my experience, is nearly always a good idea. Please don’t attempt to subjugate others’ intentions to facilitate your own inference of offense. AS A HUMAN, I dislike seeing people hijack other people’s comments without basis.


        2. lol Vince, I thought your comment was one of lightheartedness, quality and accuracy.
          Would it have been more respectful if he used a euphemism like pretty?

        3. Sorry Liz, but the repression of human sexual attraction is psychologically harmful and pretty damn unpaleo. If he’s attracted to her, he’s free to say so. Let’s put an end to sex-shaming dogma.

  3. For the past 2 months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to be offline more, and read more in its place.

    Sure, it’s on a KINDLE, but I don’t check the net, so it doesn’t count, right? 🙂

  4. I haven’t watched TV much since about 1968. People keep trying to give me TVs, but I don’t really have a place to put one. I watch TV sometimes with my dad when i’m visiting. There’s not much to watch. Usually we end up watching a movie on netflix.

    As for internet addiction: I am the only person I know who doesn’t have a smart phone. I have a little pay as you go flip phone for car emergencies. It costs about $38/month. I don’t want to pay more for a smart phone, and the cell phone towers are far from my house anyway.

    But the real reason I avoid smart phones is that I don’t want to be like so many people I see, who can’t talk to me b/c they are constantly playing with their phones. When I go out with people, they put their phone down on the table in front of them, and then every few minutes somebody starts looking at their phone, and then everybody does. Once this happened and I was irritated by it, so I got out my flip phone and put it on the table and laughed. But nobody seemed to get what I was laughing about. I was laughing at my Amish phone in part, and also at them for their obsessions with their phones.

    The problem is, everybody expects me to text them instead of calling or emailing. I can’t do that very well with my Amish phone, and people think it’s odd and inconvenient that they have to actually listen to my voice or read an email. But if everybody has email on their phone, I can’t see what the problem is. Is there something I don’t understand about smart phones?

    When I went to visit my sister and her children two weeks ago, the two boys were constantly gazing into their phones when we went out to eat. Their sister, who is younger, knows how to interact with people in person, and so she didn’t do that, although she has a smart phone. Instead, she and I threw rice to some sparrows and watched them carry the grains of rice to their nests across the street. It was fun, and a much better social activity than gazing into phones together.

    1. When I go out to eat with people and they start playing with their phones, I always get up and leave while muttering stuff like being present and rudeness. Doesn’t happen much anymore as you might guess. I think people need to know when they are being rude.

    2. Shannon, I totally relate, and now I am the second person you “know” who does not have a smart phone! My hubby and I kid that we have a dumb phone. You know, the regular thing we used for decades. We are retired, we are home most of the time, so we don’t see a need for a cell phone. Maybe it’s our generation, but we grew up with one phone in the house and our family had a party line because we could not afford a private line. For those of you too young to remember, a party line means you share the same phone line with 2 or 3 other families.

      When we wanted to talk to our friends, we didn’t text; we ran out the back door and down the street to our friend’s house and knocked on the door! We got our exercise in the process and then ran all over the neighborhood gathering up other friends to play whatever game was on tap for the day. We were more primal than we knew, back in the day!

      I love my iPad and we have desktop computers and use technology, but having not grown up with it, we are not as used to depending on it and certainly not addicted. I feel badly for kids today; they miss so much not being outside, playing and interacting with friends, and adults face to face. Thanks, Mark, for bringing attention to this and I hope the primal community can buck some of the current cultural trends that turn people into “tech zombies”!

      1. I also refuse to get a smartphone but I do have a first-generation KIndle Fire that goes everywhere w/ me–when I eat out alone, which is most of the time, the Kindle is my dinner companion. The last time I went out w/ a non-family group there was a young guy there who was wearing a Google Glass AND had his face glued to his phone for the majority of the meal. Oh,, well, I won’t be going out again w/ that group, anyway.
        I don’t text, either; I don’t type well on a regular keyboard so I’m not about to take up THAT struggle–do I want to communicate w/ someone who is that adverse to the sound of my voice?? I’ts not neccessarily the texters, either; a couple of weeks ago I was very nearly sideswiped several times by a younger woman who was gabbing on her phone who kept drifting into my lane on a residential-area through street. I got so frustrated that at the next traffic light I ended up yelling at her to put the phone down before she hit somebody. I have handsfree in my own car but if conditions are such that very much distraction would be a problem I just stay off the phone altogether–the phone and the GPS are in the same unit so the voice on the phone overrides the GPS voice prompts, making it very easy to miss turns, exits etc.
        Bottom line is that its really the people that are the problem, not technology.

  5. Overuse is when you are getting on the freeway and the person in front of you is going 24 MPH and weaving, with their face down. I’d like to run these folks off the road and strengthen the gene pool. Driving a one ton machine distracted is scary.

    Read somewhere that High Schoolers text an average of 2,000 or more times a week. Wonder what I woulda done when I was a teen and they had all this technology.

  6. Ironically, I am reading this article on one of my myriad of technological devices. I find them to be very draining on my spirit. I need to frequently retreat to the forest without them in order to recharge my primal self.

  7. I don’t think it’s so much the addictive pull of technology as it is the addiction-prone nature of many of us. Some people are more easily addicted to anything and everything–drugs, booze, gambling, whatever. The school kids have become convinced they need to stay connected every minute of the day, and so they wear out the tendons of their thumbs constantly texting each other. A lot of grown-up kids do this as well. Also, surprisingly, a lot of people are relatively new to the world of i-phones, apps, etc. They are fascinated by that little gadget and can’t resist playing with it, even at times when it’s just plain rude.

    Am I the only person in America who sees computers and phones as tools rather than toys? I’ve owned computers pre-internet, since the days of the old 512 kbyte floppy disks, but I’ve never considered it anything but a means to an end. I have a dumb phone, not a smart one, and I’m quite happy using it solely to make and receive calls. I don’t text and rarely leave voice mail. I find social media such as Facebook to be far too intrusive and too much of a timesuck. I’d rather have a real life than a virtual one. I’m not bragging about anything here, just contrasting my oddball self with most of the people I know.

  8. I am so unable to contribute anything to this discussion; I don’t even have a TV that can receive digital signals and we don’t have cable. We watch videos (DVDs, old tapes), but I don’t have any social media accounts at all. I don’t need Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other new shiny objects that dangle in front of me. When we dropped live TV reception my life became a lot more free and I want to keep it that way. Obviously, I have internet access but I try to choose what I want to look for and minimise the “wow, there’s a pony over there” kind of thing.

    I have a cell phone, but I never use it; it is for emergency uses only, and I think of it as an outgoing-only tool. Anybody who wants to reach me has to use my land line; I never check it for messages – ever. It does bug me when people interrupt a face to face conversation with me to take a call; one contractor lost a job that way while he was giving me a bid. I told him if the phone call was more important than getting my business to go ahead and take the call, and that’s what he did. The phone addiction thing really creeps me out but I don’t think I would make a good member of the hive mind anyway, LOL.

    I suppose that I am proof that some of us reject the scenario Mark describes, but I imagine that most of us feel that way about ourselves. Who would want to contemplate the alternative? And really, who wants to be a total luddite – it’s just not possible to live in a cave somewhere; I mean it’s really not even physically possible for anyone except someone who is so introverted that the word “society” is an obscenity.

    Sorry not to contribute more to the discussion, but to do that I would have to spend more time with the toys that Mark talks about just so I could understand the phenomena better, and I don’t want them. 🙂

  9. It’s good and bad. The good part is that I wouldn’t have had access to the information that ultimately has made me the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been, without the internet. The bad is the complusive checking side of it, plus the fact that I feel the need and the pull to be connected at all times. At this point for me the good outweighs the bad.

    1. “The good part is that I wouldn’t have had access to the information that ultimately has made me the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been, without the internet.”

      I totally agree with this coment, I guess it is a matter of find a balance to get the best of both worlds! I do have a smart phone though, I find apps very useful and other things, but I try to limit my use, my phone like to be in plane mode a lot! LOL

      thanks, Mark, you are amazing! and thank michelle for have the same opinion as me lol

      1. i feel the same way. if i had no net connection i would not been able to turn my life around with the help of mda, jimmy moore blog and so on, because i live in europe and there is no still access to these thiggs. on the other side i tend to cover emotional problems wasting a lot of time in front of a screen in search of time wasting stuff.
        the loosing of control, usually start the addiction, eg. alcohol, food, internet and one must raise his own antennas.
        perhaps it is time for me, all that said ,to switch it off, go outside ( with my mountain bike in this case ) and schedule to read more and reduce internet exposure time switching the pc on only with a purpose in mind and not as a pastime. better pass the time in a primal way.

        1. i forgot to add that ouput ( exercise, study etc) requires effort, but input ( watch tv, read silliness and the like) is much easier

  10. I should add a caveat here. I do find Facebook useful. In a rural area, it’s like a local newspaper that everybody can edit, which is great. You might not like all the editorials, but in a small town you have to learn to be tolerant of people who are different from you.

    The fact that people can create events and invite people to them easily is especially good I think. I find out about births, deaths, weddings, birthdays, and retirements on FB. I have reconnected via FB with old friends whom I had lost track of.

    I think you have to be careful on all social media sites to monitor the quality of your engagement with it. Is it making you unhappy because you get caught up in stupid, unending political arguments? Then don’t do that.

    That said, I find it useful for political organizing. I’ve learned about candidates for local office and I have connected with other Democrats in my mostly Republican district.

    1. I find Facebook useful to connect with my social circle – which is mostly musicians or music fans in a particular genre. They live all over the world, so the only time we get together in person is at festivals, which happen a few times a year. If it weren’t for Facebook, I’d never really get to know any of these people.

      Sometimes the anti-tech luddites forget that when someone is on the computer or the smartphone, they are, in fact, interacting with real people. There is a real person on the other end. When I respond to someone’s Facebook status, I am interacting with a real live human being. It’s no better or worse than interacting with a real live human being in person.

      I’m actually a fairly enthusiastic Facebooker, because it allows me to advertise my music gigs to an interested potential audience, and because it allows me to keep in touch with people in an easier way than calling them on the phone or driving across the country to meet with them in person. I get to see the baby pictures from proud new parents (a few of my friends have recently had babies), I get to hear about the daily lives of people I care about, I get to hear about the wedding anniversaries and birthdays and graduations – basically, it’s part of my social life. No, it’s not my only social life. But it is a meaningful part of it. I find it to be a positive influence in my life.

  11. I love certain aspects of the internet–reading and easy research mainly. The rest, not so much. I only have Facebook because there are some family members I would never hear from if I didn’t. Twitter is useless noise. I have a smartphone but I rarely text and only play games on breaks at work (not all the time) or if I’m in a waiting room. I tend to use it more for stuff like making out my grocery list or depositing checks or paying bills. I’m amazed at the number of people I work with who are constantly on their phones. One guy who looks to be around my age, late forties, comes in and leaves at the same times I do, and EVERY SINGLE TIME he’s on the phone with whom I’m presuming is his wife narrating events. “Hi, honey, I just got to work, I had oatmeal for breakfast, I’m wearing gray pants.” (Seriously, I’ve heard him). Around my desk phones are constantly going off because Cthulhu forbid that your spouse/child/parent cannot get in immediate touch with you at all times. When I was a kid, calling my mom or dad at work meant an extreme emergency. Now? It’s not at all unusual for a kid to call his/her mom six times a day. Sigh.

    1. Strong agree about research and reading. I learn so much faster these days, it’s astounding. I learn about books for one thing. And I still read them.

  12. I don’t have that kind of phone and I don’t have a facebook account. But I do spend a lot of time on my computer mostly because I have a computer job and not a lot to do. I find computer stuff compelling and at the same time it’s very unsatisfying.

    I ride a motorcycle and I don’t think 25% of people are on the phone all at once, but I do believe it that 25% of people probably have used their phone while driving. It’s very frustrating and scary.

    Even though I don’t use all this new technology, only some of it, I do fantasize about living somewhere where none of it is available. Being in the present moment with people is so much more pleasant. I guess that’s why I do old-fashioned things now and then like spend time in the wilderness and play in an old-time music jam session once a week. We had a great jam last night with children dancing on the lawn and a spontaneous wedding showed up so we played for them. Simple joys, very satisfying.

  13. Technology, electronics and the Internet are evolving at such a rapid pace, shaping our society, current business models, communication and ways of obtaining information. Unfortunately, often times, what gets left behind is the genetic requirements for healthy physiology and genetic expression of health. Nicholas Carr’s brilliant book “The Shallows” documents how the Internet literally changes how our brains think, function and process information. While technology will almost certainly continue to drive so many social and business factors, staying true to activities and experiences that are vital to our genetic requirements for healthy living is a must!

  14. I told my sister just yesterday (over the internet, of course) that if I didn’t live so far away from family and friends, I would like to get rid of my Facebook. But with everyone in other states, I find it really convenient.

    The thing that really really scares me is people driving and texting, or even driving and talking on the phone. Sometimes I check my msgs at a stoplight, but texting and driving is horrible. I joke with my husband that it used to be if you were driving and saw a car swerving, you’d assume they were drunk. Now you automatically KNOW they are texting. And don’t get me started on people driving and talking on the phone. They just push their cars into traffic like EVERYONE is going to stop for them..

    It’s causing people to believe the world revolves around them, and it’s not healthy. If I could get my husband to give up the cable, I think our lives would be much richer. I love to go outside when I get home from work and re-center myself in the grass or on the warm concrete.

    Technology is both terrible and awesome and we need to teach ourselves and children good boundaries and manners regarding it. It just seems so many people don’t share this point of view which is saddening.

    1. I gave up cable and don’t miss it. We still have Netflix and Hulu+ but I hardly watch it….wish I could say the same for my wife. Makes me want to fling her iPad/iPhone out the window into oncoming traffic sometimes.

  15. Yes! Also, has anyone else noticed how many parents seem to be ignoring their children in favor of their phones? My husband and I are increasingly appalled at the lack of interaction among families these days….it’s very sad to us. I mean, little ones especially are missing out on so much! And for what – so you can post another narcissistic “selfie” or check your stupid faceblah account?? I have been having to fight off the urge to say “hey, you! You know this phase of your children’s lives is over in a BLINK of a second, right??? Pay attention to them!!”

    We had a rule and it still stands that when we are all together doing some kind of activity, phone use should be limited, or left in the car/home/hotel room etc.. We never allowed our kids (now 17 & 21) to even have a book at the table much less a Gameboy or phone…. nope, if you don’t have anything to say, fine, but you will at least be present and listen politely. Sometimes I don’t like the way things are going in this world…OMG I sound old 🙂

      1. +2 you are NOT alone lol

        So amazing to find people that we can identified ourselfs

    1. I completely agree! My kids are 3.5 and 21 months and I’m pregnant with our third. I am so proud that my kids don’t watch tv (not even Sesame Street…the horror!), don’t know how to use an iPad, and only recently did I teach my oldest how to call from my iPhone in case of an emergency. I would love so much to cancel our cable but my husband likes it for sporting events, which could be worse. I know my kids will only be little for a short time and I know I would regret so much later in life being sucked into my phone vs. watching them run around barefoot in our backyard. I gave up Facebook as a New Years resolution and haven’t missed it one single nanosecond. I got rid of all the unnecessary apps & functions on my phone. I feel so free, and I’m reading more real books (the tangible ones, not on a device) than ever before. Life is good!

    2. You remind me of a photo I saw a while back. A group of five or six little kids (8, 9, 10 years old, I’d say) at the beach. They were all dressed in swimsuits and sitting on a picnic table….texting. Some clever person in the comments ventured that they were probably texting each other. Now that I’m thinking about it, I might have seen it on this website or on a link from this site.

  16. Ha! Very timely. I was just trying to explain to my 11 and 13 year old that life is what happens while they are having screen time. They think I am hilarious.

  17. The Internet is fantastic but in moderation. I log in twice a day for email, news, blogs of interest and the weather report. I don’t have a Facebook account or a smartphone. More than anything else I want to be out somewhere on a hiking trail.

  18. I resisted the Smart Phone forever for these reasons exactly, but my mom wanted to get a new one and she needed someone to buy one with her (did I mention she pays the bill? I’m 29 and that’s unacceptable, but we only have local home phone service and she wants me to be able to call her). Anyway, I digress. So, in February, I got one and I set up very strict rules about it. Mostly, I use it as a pedometer and then at night after everyone goes to bed I use the games. Otherwise, I think I would be horrendous. All my internet use happens from my computer. And when my kids get no screen time, I get no screen time. It really goes a long way towards achieving a happier, healthier friendlier home environment. I also get more things done that way.

    I will say that I do check my email more often with the Smart Phone- I used to pretty much ignore it completely. Now I check it daily with prevents the build up. So, that’s good. Overall, I think if you don’t put limits on yourself you will fall prey to these things. Mostly, you just have to make an effort to present in real life (which is sad) and the people who want to, will.

    1. YES! I just discovered that particular fact, and I’m astounded at how well that works.

  19. Great to read this type of ‘lifestyle’ content – I am concerned about the level by which I (and I’m sure many others) get sucked in by our devices. I think it is good to put some hard rules in place for your personal or family use of technology e.g. no use of mobile phones during eating – why do we need to do this!? (but for an emergency situation).

    For all the ‘real life’ time we lose each day absorbed by our devices/internet, it can’t be denied that technology has saved us huge chunks of time, whether it is booking a holiday, restaurant or finding insurance – so much is automated compared to the past when we had to spend time seeing the right people for the job!

    …balance it out…easier said than done!

  20. I have a smart phone but I don’t have a data connection so that solves that problem! People go on about having the knowledge of the world at your fingertips, so that’s how I use the internet, like a reference library. Not like a gossip network.

  21. We make the choice for technology to be a tool or a trap. The key is knowing the difference. I use a smart phone for books on tape and google maps, necessary information and yes, keeping in touch. If I do not want to be bothered I turn it off. The problem is some people, especially kids cannot turn it off. I believe ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder is miss labeled. In IMO, ADD more aptly describes Acquired Digital Distraction. The rewiring of minds did not exist prior to video screens and input/feedback devices. Reading and face to face conversation has become a lost art in the digital age. That is why we need to make a conscious effort to maintain predigital skills.

  22. I stopped watching TV in 1975, the year I finished college. I also stopped going to movies the same year. I did the former because TV was insipid. I did the latter because of the audience behavior, which apparently now is even worse. And I have a telephone but I use it perhaps once a week. I am thinking about getting rid of it. Then there is the internet… but unlike previous media the internet is all about choice. Growing up in Maine like Mark we had two TV channels, theaters all showed the same movies, phones were often party lines shared by several families. Cable TV — long after my youth — was/is about choice but still offers limited selections decided by others. While the internet can indeed be a sewer of misinformation it does allow one to choose more than ever before. That is where the rub is… the Internet might be too choice orientated to establish definite selection trends. When I was a kid we had NBC or CBS and if the weather was good and you held the antenna right maybe ABC. Limited choice, limited influence. But my assertion is that now the extreme unlimited choice has less specific influence. It confers only a general trend.

  23. I’ve struggled with this. All I can say for sure is it DOES have some pull for me, it would be challenging to be without my phone for a day, but no at all impossible, and it would is preferable and would be wise of me to enjoy more of my free time unplugged (from every electronic gadget used for entertainment).

  24. When I moved into my current apartment about 5 months ago, I didn’t have the money for cable or even internet. So, I didn’t get them. I got rid of my TV. When I “needed” the internet to pay bills or do my budget or whatever, I turned on the hotspot on my phone and did it quickly so I didn’t go over my data use. I spend most of my day at work on a computer, and when I get home the last thing I want to do is continue to stare at a screen. My apartment was almost always clean, dishes were done, and I had plenty of time to work out, cook, and spend time with friends.

    My boyfriend recently moved in and brought his TV and internet with him. It’s been okay, but I admit I miss the simplicity and the quiet of my home before. Maybe someday I’ll convince him to ditch the electronics, or at least greatly reduce their use…

  25. As someone who works in the Information Technology sector, I create boundaries to ensure I am able disconnect. On my phone/tablet, I only sync my work email between 8a and 6p. Nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait until the following morning. I don’t own a gaming system (XBox, PlayStation, etc.). I also set aside an hour each night to read or journal. These are small changes that add up to an enjoyable evening during the work week.

  26. I feel there is a collective thought (of most) the replies here that technology that connects people is a bad thing. I think a lot of people forget that it is a tool used to enhance communications between people. Think about it, how hard would our jobs be with out modern communications. You can communicate with any one in the world at any time via oral or vocal means. This is fantastic. And saves a lot of time wasting when you can make a 5 sec phone call, text, internet search and ask a question.

    Also modern communications is a super safety thing. I ride motor bikes in the middle of nowhere in hard to reach places by anything but a motorbike. I carry a phone, with GPS apps so if i get in trouble i can call out for help, and give my location with the gps app. Great piece of mind.

    Most people (and especially) kids (I call kids anything up to 20 something) don’t realise that what they are holding in their hands is a very powerful computer that can do a hell of a lot more than update their status on face book. It is a communication tool that if used in the context of a means to organise physical social gatherings between real physical people, it is worth while technology that humanity should use. Think about this situation; You get a message (text, email or something internety) from a friend you have not seen in a long time, while out an about. They say they are passing through town and would like to catch up, but they haven’t got long. You than punch the address of the meeting place in your smart phone and the mapping app takes you there. You and your old friend have a chat and catch up. With out modern technology you may never have stayed in contact via face book. With out you mobile phone you would never have gotten that message to catch up, and would not have known where to go with out the mapping app. See useful tool for enhancing social contact.

    Just don’t forget it is a tool and not a means to an end. If you want to catch up with old friends, use Facebook (or what ever) to find them, connect and than organise a face to face meeting.

    I know my life is enhanced because of modern technology, I just don’t forget it is a tool. And yes a lot of people are addicted. It is sad.

  27. Could it be that I am the one of the few readers of this blog that, while totally agreeing with most of the primal philosophy, feels like the whole ludite attitude against technology is a massive overreaction?

    The cons of technology get enough attention, but as Jonathan and some others have expressed, tech is not only about bad things. Technology brings a lot, A LOT, of good things to our lives too.

    A week ago I forgot my cellphone at home, and I spent a whole day without one. It was THE most stressful day in my life in like 3 years (and I have a 3.5 year old kid). I was cut off from information, couldn’t communicate with family, friends, coworkers, I was constantly worried I would miss my appointments for the day either because I didn’t remember I had an appointment or simply because I didn’t even know what time it was…

    My point is technology is a kind of evolution for humankind, it upgrades our memory, knowledge and even *changes* the way we socialize… and change is not always for worse.

    Of course, this is just my opinion, but I hope at least some people will rethink their posture.

    1. I have a watch to tell time, a landline phone in my office for calls, and I write down my appointments on a physical calender. Don’t rely on your phone,and you won’t be stressed without it. I’m not ancient, I’m in my 30s, but I really miss the good ole days 🙂

  28. The ability to connect that modern technology brings is astounding.
    Social media capitalizes on the human need to be connected to other people. I look at Facebook and LinkedIn as a catalog of the people I’m connected with, and the underlying technology as a means to engage those connections. The quality of those connections is variable. What I’ve noticed is that the feeling of connection is what I’m seeking when I reach for the smart phone, or click on the refresh button in my browser. Once I realized that I was looking for connections, I was able to start managing the quality of those connections. The lower quality connections fade to background noise, and the higher quality connections get the attention they warrant. Those high quality connections get translated to the real world where all of the context of physical presence is allowed to flourish; enabling deep and meaningful relationships to develop.
    The degree of connectedness that technology allows is probably what is so enthralling about it. Filtering the connections for quality is the skill that allows technology to enhance my life rather that degrade it.

  29. A very timely post, as I have just deactivated my Facebook account. I’d found myself more disconnected than ever to my fellow man/woman. Now, instead of having my face buried in the phone, I make eye contact and say hello to people (when appropriate). Very refreshing and tres retro. 😉

  30. As someone who doesn’t even own a old school cell phone, I wonder weather or not I am represented in those stats. Seems to me that it only includes people who own a cell phone.

    “85% of adults couldn’t go for a day without access to our phones.”

    So it’s 85% of adult cell phone owners, not adults. I’m really curious about the percentage of cell phone owners. I hope it’s something less than 99%.

  31. There’s that, of course. But if it weren’t for Facebook, I would almost never get to talk to my best friend. She lives in another country and doesn’t come to visit too often, and even phone conversations are problematic – the costs would be astronomical. So we do Facebook chat. So yes, sure, that’s displacing real-world contact with someone else; but I don’t want to talk to someone else. I want to talk to my friend.

  32. I’ll be the bump in the road and say that humans are evolving with technology. We can’t eschew technological progress in the name of a primal lifestyle. True, we shouldn’t be completely engrossed in our phones, our games, our television to the detriment of our loved ones or health, but I say that to completely disengage from social media and other forms of internet indulgences is akin to sticking your head in the sand and singing, “la la la la”.

    Barring some kind of electromagnetic pulse warfare humans are not going to go back to their primal ways. Instead, we have to integrate the technology in a healthy manner. And perhaps that’s the point of this article. Not “ignore the technology” but rather “how to integrate in a healthy manner”.

  33. Do you think there is a difference between reading on your phone while on the toilet… vs reading a magazine or book?

  34. One thing that draws me in on the internet is that on comment sections I often feel the desire to throw in my two cents even if I don’t think I have anything to say that would matter to anyone or contribute to the discussion or compilation of opinions and ideas. I am simply a sucker for a good comments section. If I had two cents for every time I gave one on the internet…
    Sometimes I just like to write or type words as long as someone is probably going to read them. I guess it’s a way of attention seeking. Here I must state with conviction though that I am a far cry from qualifying as what I consider an attention whore. A lot of the time I don’t want attention, feel awkward being looked at, hope that people leave me out of a conversation because I feel like not talking, and regularly I don’t even want other people in the vicinity, such as when I take all the backways to get somewhere or spend time living like a hermit. I’m often self-centered (while trying to be decently considerate of others), I’ve called myself a narcissist before, but it doesn’t mean I crave to be the center of attention even if I sometimes enjoy it. I guess, using a quote from Mark that made me think about this, “it [being me in this case] imposes its story on everything”. The internet happens to be a great tool for that. I like to project my thoughts and opinions out there like a hail mary. Someone on the other side of the world could be reading this right now. I think that’s awesome.

  35. I probably fall into the category of being addicted to my phone i admit. I wish i wasn’t though. But the internet has also been good for me, I have made many friends on the internet, that I now know in real life. I grew up as an only child, my mother wasn’t confident and sociable and it rubbed off on me. Whilst i did play outside a lot growing up, most of it was alone. It’s only now in my 30’s that i can say I actually am more sociable and have a wide range of friends.
    The internet is a useful tool but i do think children are exposed to too much technology, but I’m not sure we can slow it down. The eldest child I nanny for has to take an iPad to school for work. The second one, her school have recommended kindles to “encourage reading”, utter BS if you ask me. Luckily all 4 kids love actual books and read a lot. But they also have a slight addiction to the iPad, the 4 yr old is actually the worse, she asks for it constantly.
    From my experience as a nanny, the earlier technology is introduced the worse it is, so with my own children I would eliminate it until necessary. For me it isn’t necessary for children under 5 to use iPads, phones, or even watch tv.

  36. What are your thoughts on E-readers as it relates to overuse of technology?

    I am an avid reader, and can typically read several books a week. The e-reader has made reading much more accesible since I am am not constrained by things such as not being able to read in the dark. Lately I have been thinking that, even though reading a book is a good thing and good for your mind, that I spend too much time in front of the e-reader. Technically it’s not much different from a smart phone, and I tend to justify it’s overuse by telling myself that I’m reading a a book so it cannot be a bad thing.

    I guess moderation is the key to everything.

  37. I did not necessarily believe that technology and the internet could become an addiction until I witnessed it first hand. Seeing someone who can not live with out having 24 hour access to the latest news, friend’s photos of dinner, thoughts on nothing and so much more is in many ways disturbing. No longer to individuals interact with the person that is right in front of them or live in the moment that is at hand without sharing it with the multitudes. An experience is no longer something we cherish with those we love and are close with, but with someone we went to high school with and have never held a conversation.

  38. Some good points were raised but the fact of the matter is, in this day and age its hard to escape the lure of technology, it has become a necessary part of life and all aspects of daily living. The key, however is moderation and trying to avoid addiction and setting some time aside each day for personal contact with friends or family.