Stem the Tech Tide

email.jpgIf you feel as if technology is taking over your life, you’re not alone. Today, Nataly Kogan of Work It, Mom! shares her concerns about the role that technology plays in her family’s life, and offers suggestions for making small – but meaningful – changes to stem the tech tide.

“I’m a technology entrepreneur and technology — cell phone, laptop, Blackberry — is a huge part of my daily life. I literally could not do my job if it didn’t exist. My husband is also in tech and his job requires that he work on the computer and carry a Blackberry, which also functions as a phone. Our kitchen counter at times looks like a gadget store, with both of our laptops, phones, and Blackberries laid out on it. Sometimes this makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me want to throw it all away.

But I’d be a total liar if I said that I use technology just for my work. I love to relax by watching TV, I love the Internet for the easy and quick access it gives me to news, research, and useful info like directions or movie listings. I stay organized using my Google calendar. I hate talking on the phone so email is my primary way of staying in touch with friends and family who don’t live close by. I check my email too often, I read too much tech and business news online, and I could definitely read more books if I didn’t watch Criminal Minds on DVD.

I worry about the role of technology in our family’s life, the way it often turns my relationship with my husband into one that’s side by side vs. interactive. Sitting together and working next to each other is a poor excuse for communicating and being together. Sometimes work has to get done and we don’t have a choice; at other times, I feel that we do it because we’re used to it. Our daughter is three-and-a-half and we’ve not let her play with the computer yet, but I know it’s coming and I know technology will play a bigger role in her life than it has in ours. I worry about keeping her safe online, in the future, but I also worry about technology ruining the quality of personal relationships she might have.

I recently had lunch with a friend of mine who said she is completely overwhelmed with email. She joined Facebook and is now constantly contacted by her friends, colleagues, and people from her past. She has a business email account, a personal one, and one she uses when she buys something online (I call this the spam account). As we talked, she seemed genuinely stressed by the amount of time she is spending with her email — it wasn’t making her life as a busy working mom easier, just the opposite.

Unfortunately I don’t have any brilliant solutions about limiting the negative impact of technology on our lives, but recently we’ve tried to make a few small – but meaningful - changes:

  • One night a week is computer-free. This is hardest for me, since I work 3-4 hours every night after my daughter is asleep, but I am trying to not break this rule.

  • Have a few meals a week when TV is not involved. Our daughter eats earlier with me or the sitter, and my husband and I have dinner around 8-9pm, usually watching a show together because neither of us has energy to actually have a conversation. But a few times a week we actually sit down for dinner, or like earlier today, for a quick lunch as a family.

  • No computer or Blackberry or cell phone in the bedroom. I used to bring my laptop into bed with me at night, to finish a bit of work, but no more. The bedroom is a tech-free zone.

  • Limit the email. I am working hard on not being an email addict and not checking it all the time. (And I mean, ALL THE TIME.) My first rule is to not keep my email window open when I work on the computer. Yes, this sounds like a very easy thing to do but trust me when I tell you otherwise.”

    For more from Nataly, hop over and visit her at the Work It, Mom! blog.

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