Are you really living?

Land lines and operators like "Earnestine" used to be the only way to connectTechnology has blurred the line between work and private time. Too many people today feel chained to their jobs by electronic leashes. Some who are extremely well rewarded may not mind being plugged-in 24/7 for short periods of time, but others simply feel overwhelmed. 

In addition to real work demands, many people “work” for hours at a computer, when in reality they are mindlessly surfing the web or updating their Facebook pages. It sounds harmless, and maybe it is for short periods of time, but if family and friends have to wait for you to spend time with them, it is time to unplug.
Surfing the web or social networking can be addictive. It can be a way to shut out problems and stress. 
Facebook has been implicated in a high percentage of marriage and relationship breakups. Men and women reconnect with old flames, but tend to idealize people they have not seen for years and don’t have to actually live with.
Spending hours in front of a computer to surf, shop, or social network just makes you a high-tech couch potato. It is no more attractive or healthful than being glued to the TV, but the problem is easier to hide because so many of us actually work on our computers. That means we have to be even more vigilant about knowing when to unplug!
Some people can’t even unplug at social events. I was shocked when a bright career woman told me that when she dines with other women, they all text constantly throughout the meal. She hates it, but was afraid to object because she is scared of looking “old”. How sad is that?  I often go out with 20- and 30-something friends; none would be so gauche. I have occasionally dined with self-important 50-plus people who needed to be told to put it away.
Darlings, technology is grand. I wouldn’t want to live without it. The world is literally at our fingertips. But technology can shrink your world as well as expand it, if you aren’t careful.
Judy Belmont and Lora Shor, psychotherapists and wellness speakers and trainers, have covered the subject in their new book, The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life: How To Get Through Life’s Holes Without Getting Stuck in Them!  They have listed some pros and cons of being “plugged-in”. It is food for thought.
Reasons to unplug:
·        You will sleep better: We all know that sleep is the key to feeling great and making great things happen in your life, so why do we sleep with our televisions on, laptops running, and BlackBerries right next to our bed? Take this time to unplug, de-stress, and let your body truly relax. You’ll get a better night’s sleep, and be more energized and productive throughout the day.
·        We’re becoming antisocial: Electronics allow us an “easy out” of situations that we, for any reason, would rather not be in. Whether it’s running into someone you don’t want to talk to, or pretending to type notes on your laptop during a “boring meeting,” we’ve begun to use our electronics as an excuse not to interact with one another. Unplugging also means reconnecting. For many of us, it is easier to text or email, rather then have an exchange of information, where one can see both physical and non-verbal cues. If the telephone is used, it still allows us to clarify a misunderstood message or listen for the inflection of someone’s tone. There is a connection that is not present on the typed page or phone text.
·        Electronics suck up all of your free time and zap your own energy: The time you spend surfing the web, responding to e-mails on the weekend, or texting someone from the office could be used for much more enjoyable and relaxing things. Take your kids to the park, go on a walk with your dog, or actually meet up with your friends instead of typing out messages to them! All of these activities will bring more happiness and relaxation than any false “electronic god” ever will.
·        Stress Relief: Using even a few minutes of each day to completely unplug will work as a great stress reliever from your hectic life. Take some time to listen to your favorite songs, look at old pictures, or talk to with your partner about something besides money, kids, and work. You’ll be shocked at how quickly and easily you are able to de-stress and recharge, and feel human again. Even a few minutes each day to practice slowing down, closing your eyes, breathing deeply and mindfully, and letting go of all thoughts that come into your mind has great implications for the physical body. During that time make sure you have all electronics off and away from your sacred place — yourself!
·        We are doing fewer things really well:  Research has shown that performance is affected by multitasking. So responding to an e-mail, texting your friend, and listening to the TV in the background, all while finishing up that report for work, really will affect the quality of your work. Take time to focus on one task at a time, and all of your assignments will be much more thorough.
·         Your brain on computers:A recent study published in The New York Times followed five neuroscientists as they unplugged from everything and went on a weeklong trip in remote Utah to study how electronics affect the brain. Results showed that a period of rest for the brain is crucial for attention and memory retention. Researchers are hoping that further analysis of the topic could aid in the study of things such as attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease, and schizophrenia.  Get control of your plugged-in life before it controls you!
Reasons to get plugged in!
·        Some people might actually sleep better being plugged in! For some personality types, being “out of touch” might cause restlessness at night from not being “in the know.”  It was only recently, during a sailboat vacation in the British Virgin Islands, where the Internet was sparse in many remote bay moorings, that I (Judy) went through “Cold Turkey Detox” from my coveted electronics.  This “relaxing” getaway made it all too evident that being unplugged might have the opposite effect or relaxation. Being “cut off” and disconnected was exactly the reason I woke up most nights on vacation, wondering about things I was dying to find out, such as the outcome of an important meeting, what my automatic sell order for a stock sold for, and if my publisher got back to me about details of our book release. The suspense was killing me!
·        Being “plugged in” might actually help you stay more socially connected: Not everybody lives in proximity to their closest friends, or is good about picking up the phone and chatting.  Email and texting are great ways to have informal communication while fitting in other things in your life.  Maybe you do not have anything special to say that merits a visit or a phone call, or maybe you are swamped with your own life happenings, but a quick note, posting on someone’s Wall, or email forward to keep in touch really keeps the connections going.  Being “plugged in” with cells and texts can truly help you do what Ma Bell knew best, the importance of being able to “reach out and touch someone.” 
·        Maybe you don’t want to “get away from it all!” Is “getting away from it all” also cutting you off from the very connections, friendships, and normal routines that keep you sane through out the year?  You spend years building up your routines and networks that work for you, so is going through “unplugging” all that it is cracked up to be?  Keeping connected need not make you feel guilty that you are doing something “bad” for you.  If it is not broke, don’t fix it!” 
·        Being “plugged in” might actually get you energized!  Being “plugged in” does not need to be an energy zapper.  It can help you energize and have the world at your fingertips!  Sometimes we need our daily fix of being “in the loop!”  If we are curious about something, we can find out about it right away.  We get instant gratification to see our friends and family, look at baby pictures, and family events, even if we cannot be there with them. How very exciting and amazing that we can keep so informed and connected to anywhere and everywhere!
·        Stress Relief!  Yes, “unplugging” can be stress-relieving at times, while for some people there are times that “plugging in” can be a stress reliever.  Who does not like to surf the net?  Oh, the lazy days of web surfing!  It certainly is a bit more active than watching TV!  Even playing games online can be a great source of stress relief.
Darlings, no sane person wants to be completely “off-the-grid”. It’s fun and emotionally healthy to stay connected to family and friends. Facebook, phones, and Skype make it easier.
Technology makes it possible for me to work from home and “talk” to women around the globe. As much as I enjoy my work, I know I wouldn’t be really living if I could not sit and chat with friends, cook, read, exercise, and do a hundred other things off line. So darlings, enjoy your time online – I wouldn’t have it any other way. But if you spend hours surfing the web, texting, or updating your Facebook page, ask yourself if you are really “living?”