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Are you addicted to your gadgets?
Ajay Jain
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December 10, 2007

Does your Blackberry go with you into the shower? This question may sound far-fetched, but what cannot be denied is our increasing addiction to our gadgets. While their importance in our daily lives cannot be denied, a pertinent question that faces most of us technologically-enabled folk is whether this technology is keeping us away from giving much-needed time and attention to other aspects of our lives? Are we able to strike a balance? And are there any of us who have found an effective way of life mostly away from these gadgets?


These are questions being asked globally, in most societies of the world. Interestingly, amongst those who have a need and the means to use technology in their day-to-day lives, the adoption patterns can vary between all forms of extremes.


On the one hand you have the likes of Garrett Hartzog, Capital Markets Development Analyst at PMI Mortgage Insurance Co, USA, who says, "They will take my iPhone away from me when they pry it out of my cold, dead fingers." And on the other hand you have Madhu Sameer, a psychotherapist currently in the USA, representing the other extreme. "I stay away from the 'evils of technology' as much as I can. I am technologically challenged, and very happy for that. I do have a mobile, but I use it for emergencies -- like once or twice a week. Internet usage is rationed. TV is banned for the most part. I haven't seen a TV programme in over five years, except for CNBC once in a while when I am trading. My children watch TV only when there is nothing else to do."

Few would find a life totally free of gadgets a pragmatic way to look at things though. But how do you manage keep it from becoming an addiction? "Either you can use technology to make life more convenient, or you may end up being used by technology. It is like they say about money: Do not be a slave of money; money is good if you manage and lead it. You have to use your mind when using technology before it overpowers you," says Manfred H Buechel, Change Manager, Odenthal, Germany [Images].


Does excessive use of technology cause any level of fatigue to set in after a while, especially with connected devices like Blackberries always with us?


"It would be nice to stay away from gadgets for a while. I am not sure if I am suffering from Blackberry fatigue; I often keep complaining of the shortage of time and I am quick to blame these devices for the same. Having said that, when left alone on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I am also quick to turn to the same devices for some entertainment or work. All said and done, the benefits of having them more than compensate for the nuisance they cause," feels Sunder Ramachandran, Managing Partner, W.C.H Training Solutions.


"I am about done with two-inch screens and text messaging. If you can't say it over email or instant messaging, save it for later," says US-based IT professional Eileen Bonfiglio.


Says Misty Khan, President and CEO, Advena Artemis, USA, "I look at it another way: I find my Blackberry (my husband refers to it as my Crackberry) to be liberating. The thing is, you have to exercise discipline with smart phones; while it is good not to feel tied to the office if I am expecting an important email, I also take care not to set my clients' expectations such that I will return an email the minute it shows up on my Blackberry."

"I have yet to see any gadget that can't be turned off or left in a drawer; so it is not the gadgets that fatigue us. It is the fear that if we turn them off now, our ability to continue eating food and sleeping indoors will zoom away, leaving us prematurely impoverished," says Robert Poulk, Senior Enterprise Systems Troubleshooter, Microsoft (Volt), USA.


Despite all the good advice going around, many of us are giving up on simpler but essential elements of our lives, addicted as we are to technology even at times which may otherwise have been used for other pursuits.


Says Bob Martin, Technical Leader at Kimberly-Clark, USA, "I probably ought to read more books or go for more walks. But on a typical evening, I have two screens in front of me as I type. One is attached to my work computer and another is attached to my home computer. There are four other computers in my room. My wife is using one for her business. The other three are off. The kids are using a computer in the living room. I might go online at nine in the night, and be at it until three in the morning."


"Even on nights I plan to keep the work computer off, I may not be able to resist the temptation. I am driven. But then again, I am one of those who bought his first modem in 1983 and was telecommuting in 1985," he adds.

"I will be darned if I let technology hijack my time and my relationships. My children also would rather spend their time hanging out and discussing things at the dining table every night, or listening to music with me. And I spend $100 a week on books on an average," says Mr. Sameer.


"If anything, gadgets make reading a bigger part of daily life. But this ever-present unemployment anxiety causes us to restrict what we read to whatever can be squeezed into the gadgets' formats and contexts," adds Poulk.


And what if your work pressures do not permit you to yank yourself free from the gadgets? Says Buechel, "You should go up to your boss, sitting relaxed behind his desk, and ask for triple the salary or bigger stock options." If you can pull it off, there might yet be a silver lining to it.

Are you addicted to technology? Do you find yourself constantly checking your mobile phone for messages or calls even though you didn't hear it ring? Before you go to bed do you switch on your PC to check your email, but end up spending most of the night chatting, surfing or hammering away at the keyboard? Or do you know a friend or family member who does? Tell us your story, how it has affected your life and if and how you tried to beat the addiction. Post your experiences on the messageboard below!

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