Most parents that come to my office are very concerned that their children are non-stop roaming the Internet and constantly use modern technologies (computer, Facebook, cell phone, Twitter, Instagram). Being immersed in computerized technology prevents a person from communicating with others. Therefore, it is very important to become aware of the effect of technology on our own lives. However, did you as a parent look at yourself and not just on your children ?
Sarah, a 43 year-old married woman with three children, reports a feeling of emptiness. Most of her days are spent running errands, shopping, meeting friends, or talking on the phone. Her friends are jealous of her life style and the fact that she has time for herself. However, she feels lonely and empty. She finds herself more and more upset with her children and herself, and often suffers from breathing difficulties. She recently started to consume more food because she feels empty and bored. Sarah found that her cell phone has gradually become the center of her world. She talks on the phone almost nonstop with her friends, her children, and her husband. When the children return from school she read posts on Facebook, participates in many groups chats, responds immediately to any email, and constantly posts new pictures on Instagram. Her cellphone goes with her everywhere and anywhere, without a single break from social media. In the beginning, she really enjoyed the idea that she could be in touch with family and friends who live far away and read and see their activity. She liked the idea that she can know and be in touch with her children and her husband and know where they are at all times. Recently, however, she realized that her children spend more time on social media then on homework and learning. Moreover, even the teachers at school confirmed that her children were not focused in class. They barely play with other children, stayed inside their rooms after coming back from school, because they connect with their friends on social media. She decided to restrict their cell phone and computer use, but her children were unwilling and argumentative. When her son said: “Mom, you’re always on the phone when we are together. Why aren’t we allowed to do the same?!” At that moment, she realized—I’m really afraid to leave my cell.
Sarah suffers from anxiety of technology and fear of missing out, which is the anxiety from the thought that she is left out from everyone’s experiences. Her anxiety was further aggravated by her personal feelings of emptiness and lack of action. Using her cell phone was her attempt at reducing the anxious feelings by knowing what was happening in other people’s lives. Instead, however, her constant connection to social media increased her anxiety by making her feel as though as was missing out.
Psychotherapy sessions helped her to understand the role of technology in her life and how it actually increases her level of anxiety. She was able to take short breaks from using social media, such as leaving her cell phone in the house while going on a walk in the park. Studies show that observing nature (even watching a pot or flower) enhances the experience of disconnection from the Internet, and focuses on the present time and strengthens the awareness of being present to yourself without any fears and worries. Gradually, Sarah extended the periods of time she placed her cell phone aside, and was able to be in touch with herself. During our sessions, we spoke about her life and her future plans.
Technology affects us mentally and functionally. It is important to identify anxiety-related reactions and change our relationship with our smartphones.
The article is based on an article I wrote in Hebrew published in Israpost Magazine