Is Anxiety Today Caused by Technology? By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

There was a time when life was quite simple. Life was less stressful.  In my lifetime, I’ve seen many advances, not all have been for our better good. Others have, indeed, created advantages that were not even thought of when I was younger.

Am I that old? I don’t feel I am. It’s just that there have been so many advances in technology in the years I have been alive that it is easier to see the good and the bad results.

What do I mean?

1. Life has speeded up.

In my first working years, letters were not only typed on typewriters using carbon paper between the pages to make copies, but they were mailed. Mail is slower than email. The advantage is processing time. There was time to think about decisions. We weren’t expecting an immediate answer as we do today. An email goes out and we somehow expect a quick reply.

Due to the fact that answers weren’t instant, we made sure to allow time for this type of communication. I recall working in a law office on Vancouver Island where legal documents for a real estate deal had to come from an outlying island. This meant mail had to travel by float plane to a hub, on to a distribution center on the mainland, and then back to us on the island. It took a few days.

We went with the flow. Yes, we might have wanted quicker responses, but that wasn’t what was going to happen. We adjusted.

The margin of error was less as well. We didn’t have a ‘send’ button to push that sometimes nowadays gets hit on a quick impulse and can cause major damage because the message was not read prior to sending for accuracy of both facts and intention.

2. Availability 24/7

Nobody expected anyone to work 24/7 in the days when I first started working. In my area, we started work at 9:00 and went home at 5:00. That was it! We didn’t take work home. We didn’t have a work cell phone that kept us on duty after hours. If we were not able to handle the workload in the time we were at work, the workload was evaluated and discerned whether more help was needed or more efficiencies needed to be put in place.

When work was done, we went home. The hours after work were ours to use as we chose. That was mainly family time. It was time to spend with friends or take up a hobby or read or whatever. The fact of the matter was – there was time.

3. Shopping

Relating to the 24/7 issue, the issue of stores being open on the weekends comes up. Stores were closed on Sunday. People had a day off to recharge. In fact, I remember my first week in England when I moved there in the early ‘60’s. The stores all closed at noon on Saturday and reopened on Monday morning. If you had shopping to do, it had to be done by then.

In France, this is still much the same as experienced when I spent a month there in a small town a couple of years ago. Stores closed at 1:00, reopen at4:30, and then closed around 9:00. Mainly this is true for the smaller towns, not Paris. But still, the message is clearly that life is more important than work. People work to live, not live to work.

4. Phones

This is dating me but I remember the party line phone system. We shared a line with others in our neighbourhood. Eventually we got private lines and then eventually we could get push button lines on a business phone.

The advent of the cell phone and now all these smartphones and iPads has revolutionized how we communicate. They have also changed drastically how we live.

Now it is possible to be available 24/7 unless we deliberately choose to turn off our phones. Businesses expect employees to be on call in off hours for consultation and/or emergencies. Emergencies, I understand. This is necessary for several professions. The rest fits in with the speeded up response time required in transactions.

Many people do not have a land line anymore. They simply use their smartphone. I can see that this can be an advantage. People are no longer tied to a physical phone location. However, it does mean you are always accessible. I see people walking around the park attached to their phone. They don’t even notice what is around them. The benefits of a relaxing walk in nature are obliterated by taking their work with them. I prefer to just enjoy the walk and treat it as time for me.

If you’ve watched young people, they can be sitting side by side yet still texting each other. No verbal communication sitting across or even beside each other. No eye contact – only eyes glued on the phone screen. I believe we are losing valuable skills in communication. How can they see what a person is saying versus just what comes out in text. Visual meanings and emotions are missed – valuable information in the building of relationships.

5. Time Off/Vacations

Time off has disappeared. I find it myself. I have to make a conscious effort to not be totally accessible. I choose to close my office door and not open my computer. I make an effort to go out and visit with friends.

Even when you take a vacation, there is stress now due to the advanced communication tools. Think of all the emails that pile up when you’re away. Sometimes it takes days to clear the email the backlog. Often it is easier to just check them while you’re away so you don’t have to face all the emails when you get back, but then where did the ‘vacation’ go.

This never used to happen when I was younger. When we went away on vacation, it was a true vacation. You left the office at home. You relaxed and gave your brain a rest. It was time to re-energize.

Some people are now understanding this ‘old’ concept and going ‘unplugged’. I do that. If something is really critical, there are other ways to reach me. Otherwise, I don’t want to know. I’m off the grid.

Where is this all leading?

Stress is a huge factor in dis-ease, especially cancer. It affects our immune system causing it to be suppressed. No wonder there are so many people sick with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.  in a nation that is so advanced.  We literally are killing ourselves running to keep up to the technology that has created a lifestyle of ‘24/7’ accessibility.

Technology was supposed to give us more leisure time. That was the promise. It didn’t happen.

Are we at a point where we now need to learn how to use this new technology in a better way? I hope so. I believe that some people have been able to do this effectively. But as I look around, the vast majority of people are still living with the stress of technology.

We need to rethink our present lifestyles and turn back our ‘illness’ society. I know I am even though I am not as tied to technology as most people, it still is a stress factor of which I am aware and know something has to shift.

What do you think? Does any of this resonate with you?

To your good health and more free time to be you,

Barbara

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