Technology - A Boon or Bane to Humanity?
Modern technology is a prime example of the inherent potential of the human mind. We are living in an era of hyper-connectivity, convenience, and instant output.
It is fascinating to connect with a loved one across the globe, shop online and get the order delivered to one's doorstep overnight, buy groceries or takeaway food in 30 minutes, and receive instant validation on social media.
The Covid pandemic has only added to the convenience of doing almost everything online - such as school classes, work meetings, business collaborations, wellness sessions, banking, shopping, and many more experiences.
But, with great power comes great responsibility. Are we using technology or are we being used? This is a question for each one of us to ponder individually.
The Impact on Health
Every tool that has benefits also has its limitations. While technology has made urban life convenient and collaborative, it is at the cost of digital addiction, mental health disorders, eye conditions, postural imbalances, and a host of other diseases.
From an Ayurvedic and Yogic perspective, too much exposure to electronic devices has detrimental effects on our wellbeing. The electromagnetic radiation emitted from these gadgets lowers Prana, the vital life force within, and also imbalances the Vata Dosha, which leads to anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and other nervous imbalances.
But, the damage also happens psychologically, as the content we consume can alter our belief system. When we are connected to negativity via the online world, it shapes our thoughts and feelings at a subtle level.
While any physical or psychological health imbalance can be rectified with holistic wellness treatment, there are two aspects which need our attention the most - Patience and Focus.
The Influence on the Mind
Our attention span has degraded considerably over the last few decades. Every generation is a witness to the changing landscape of how we consume information.
Reading books may be a rare hobby today with the vast access to audiobooks, podcasts, and videos online. To add to the digitisation of knowledge and entertainment, we are also bombarded with short-form content.
This short-form content consists of 30-second stories, 1-minute video reels and the endless scroll on social media platforms. This may seem like a boastful reminder of the brain's capacity to process information and multitask.
But, in reality, it is altering the chemical system of the brain. This design of short-form content makes it addictive and a user keeps consuming many stories to seek a dopamine hit of novelty and excitement.
Adding to this, there is also the option to view longer content at 1.5x or 2x the normal speed. We are all in a race against time, compulsively jumping from one activity to another, that we are tricked into feeling productive.
But, this consumption pattern of 2x speed and short-form content, makes one impatient in real-world situations, outside the digital bubble. This is evident in people not having the patience to listen to other people and interrupting with their viewpoint.
It also translates to us expecting things to happen instantly because the digital world functions that way. But, as we all know, the real world is very different. Everything takes time and we have to cultivate patience with external systems and processes in life.
Imagine, with this kind of consumption trend online, the impact on our focus and concentration. Children are growing up in this world of information overload and distraction, and they are affected the most.
Adults too are falling prey to this web of digital traps, and this is manifesting in people losing interest in work, being confused about their purpose, and having an endless stream of thoughts in their minds.
In every domain of life, be it business, creativity, relationships, or spiritual growth - the most important tool is concentration. A focused mind does not lose track and is an efficient sword to fight all distractions of notifications, novel information, news, and other noise online.
There is certainly a ray of hope. We are blessed with an innate gift called awareness, which can help realise unhealthy patterns and rewire the brain to change our relationship with technology.
A Practical Guide
If we perceive information as food for the mind, we will realise the damage of "binge-eating". Most people eat two or three meals a day. If we eat without break, many meals throughout the day, we will end up with an imbalance and disease in the body.
Similarly, consuming information online endless without breaks and a clear intention will lead to mental constipation or diarrhoea, and manifest as anxiety, depression, and other psychological imbalances.
Here are some tips to cultivate a healthy and mindful relationship with technology.
Avoid checking your phone for the first couple of hours in the morning. Start your morning routine with yourself, and not the external world.
Keep notifications OFF when working, to avoid distractions. It is helpful to prioritise and focus on the activity or project at hand.
Check your phone only at specific intervals during the day. (Eg. after breakfast, after lunch, before dinner). Believe me, we CAN live without our smartphones.
Track the time spent on your phone on a daily or weekly basis. This will help understand your consumption. Many apps have a feature to track usage patterns.
Switch off all electronic gadgets at least an hour before bed. This will also facilitate a deeper and restful sleep.
Be aware of thoughts and emotions while using online platforms. Social media can trigger underlying envy, jealousy, anger, fear, insecurity, guilt, pride, and other emotions.
Don't make it a habit to use technology as an escape from uncomfortable situations and unpleasant emotions. Entertainment is a part of modern life, but need not be the defining factor of our lives.
Consume content which invokes feelings of optimism, rather than drowning in negativity and propaganda. All information is food for the mind.
Practice a digital detox regularly. For instance, disconnect from your phone on a Sunday, or don't use social media for a week. These periodic fasts will help reset the brain and create space for inner exploration.
Food for Thought
The "smart"phone is meant to accentuate our inherent intelligence and make our lives smarter, rather than making us digital slaves who fall prey to technology mindlessly.
This is very important if one is treading the yogic path. Everything that we consume with the senses leaves a lasting impression in the subtle layers of the mind. These impressions, Samskaras, over time are deep-rooted and influence our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, habits, and lifestyle.
Also, one of the highest states of mind as per Yoga, is Ekagrata, a one-pointed focused mind. As emphasised earlier, this state of mind will help us overcome sensory distractions and keep marching forward towards the end goal of any pursuit.
So, to answer the question probed earlier - Are we using technology or are we being used?
The answer is subjective, but I believe that the latter is the immediate reality in terms of our collective consciousness. However, we do have autonomy and making mindful choices will serve as an effective shield against the obstacles of technology.
“Technology is both a tool for helping humans and for destroying them. This is the paradox of our times which we are compelled to face.” - Frank Herbert
Technology is a powerful tool, but the key lies in how we integrate it into our fast-paced urban lives. We can either succumb to the information overload by being hooked on this endless spiral, or we can use diligent awareness to remember that there is a beautiful world beyond these gadgets.
Look around you and connect with nature. Appreciate the expansive sky, the grounding earth, the nurturing trees, the beautiful flowers, and the lively birds & animals.
Go back to reading books, feel the texture of every page, and enjoy the silence which accompanies you and the book.
Relish your meal alone or with loved ones in gratitude, free from all distractions. Keep your phone aside when spending time with another human being. Give them your complete attention rather than subconsciously anticipating the next notification.
Digital experiences will never influence our psyche the way nature and connection with others make us feel. Try it yourself for a day! Disconnect from your phone and laptop to reconnect with the joy and blessings in life.
Change starts from within. May we all be a catalyst toward building a beautiful world where we are friends with technology, rather than being controlled by it.