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Tech. and Info. Management

Technology Can Make You Crazy

If you are not completely and overwhelmingly enthusiastic about computers and other technological advances and if you are foolish enough to mention this to someone who is, you have probably been accused of being technophobic. This is, of course, completely inaccurate. If you were, you would not drive, use a toaster, or an electric can opener. There is only a small percentage of people who are truly phobic.

Many of us who express concerns about the level and pace of technological change may be feeling like road kill on the electronic highway. This is a sense of being run over by the pace and volume of information, choices, options and considerations that flow toward us at an unrelenting pace. Dr. Bruce A. Baldwin, head of Direction Dynamics in Wilmington, N.C., says that all those technological widgets, the cell phone, the PC, VCR (if you still have one), cable, faxes, pagers, and CDs have a tremendous impact on the way in which we live. "Advanced devices and systems can progressively mold human responses in directions not conducive to emotional well-being." Not to mention IPads, IPods, PDA's (personal digital assistants) and Kindles.

Today's abundance of information, while helping us all become more global, is having some unintended side effects on individuals. We live in an environment of continual overstimulation and it is pushing people to their limits. Psychologists are beginning to report more cases of stress caused by "information overload" and more complaints from patients who are unable to relax or unwind.

Work has switched from being physical to being mental, but recently much of the work we do goes on in our head and never stops. Having a beeper which might go off at any minute, a blackberry (nicknamed crackberry) means you are rarely truly away from work. It is more and more difficult to leave work at work. Mental labor can create a deep, emotionally based fatigue that is different from physical fatigue. Physical tiredness can be fixed very easily by sleep, rest or sometimes by engaging in another physical fun activity like touch football or swimming. Relaxing from mental exhaustion is more difficult. Television, movies and other sedentary activities can make the lethargy even worse.

In an article in the Futurist, (May-June, '97), Peter F. Eder talks about the emerging interactive society not being without problems. "We are more connected, yet more isolated. We have greater anonymity, but less privacy. We expect more freedom, but are less tolerant. We have more control, yet face greater demands on our time and resources."

There is Hope

You can control much of what comes at you. Do this by opting for a slower pace. Think about information and treat it like calories, cut back slowly. Stop taking the cell phone to the ball game, the headphones while walking, and the beeper to a movie. Consider the message it sends to a companion when you take a call in a restaurant. Why is the caller automatically more important than the person across from you? Sit quietly in a garden or simply do nothing. Make time in your week when you do not have to get anything done. Even a few minutes can make a big difference. Choose simpler and more basic activities. Those that are not high-tech based will help your leisure be restful. Get out of the house more. Physical activity is a great stress releaser and mental relaxer.

On a regular basis, be unavailable. Turn the cell off and do not answer the phone. Is it really so important that the message cannot wait until tomorrow morning? Unless you are a physician or an emergency medical technician or legally on-call, do you really need a twenty-four-hour beeper? Ask yourself whether all the gadgets, when all is said and done, really help you get more work accomplished. Which machines really serve you? Adjust your attitude to all this abundance by making sure that these machines conform to your pace. After all, you are in charge.



Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: odette@SmartWaysToWork.com. Visit us at: www.smartwaystowork.com call: 1-800-599-8463.

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