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Inspired living

8 reasons why technology is good for the soul


why technology is good for the soul

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Let’s face it: modern technology over the past decade or two has copped a bad rap. It wastes too much time, it’s impersonal, it promotes sedentary living and it stresses us because, once we plug in, we’re accessible 24/7.

But there’s a flipside. Modern technology, including the internet and social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can also enrich our lives, connecting us to others in ways the real world can’t. Technology can help you to find long-lost friends and stay in touch with those who live far away.

Making yourself available 24/7 is far from healthy. ... Set goals for the day and develop good online filtering habits so you can attend to what’s critical, and leave the rest for when you have time.

Modern technology has also paved the way for easy interaction with people from other cultures and social, economic or religious backgrounds. Technology can also be a friend to the environment. There are fewer trees being felled to print books and written communication. With more people working from Home via computers and smartphones, there are fewer cars on the road pumping out CO2.

Like most things in life, however, technology needs to be used with a sense of social consciousness. It’s important to dispose of any e-waste via a recycling service so toxins don’t leach into the environment. Chatting online can never replace the warmth and comfort of a skin-on-skin hug from another. Reliance on social media can create isolation and a sense of disconnectedness from a world you cannot truly reach out and feel on a three-dimensional level.

But one thing’s for sure: love it or loathe it, modern technology is definitely here to stay. Here are eight ways to make it work for you.

  1. Hey trendsetter!

According to the World Bank, 83 per cent of Australians are internet users, with New Zealanders following closely behind at 82.8 per cent. Access to online cutting-edge technology means anyone can stay up to date on trends and events. And it’s not just slim-hipped, double-shot-mocha-sipping Gen Ys who can be socially savvy. While the current exploits of the Kardashian clan might not be on your social radar, you can source up-to-the-minute ground-breaking news with a few deft keystrokes.

Avoiding the pitfalls

Don’t forget to march to the beat of your own drum. It’s OK to be a trailblazer, not a trend follower. Knowing what current trends are out there as soon as they emerge doesn’t mean you have to blindly follow them. Celebrate your individuality, your uniqueness. After all, there is no one on the planet who is just like you.

  1. Anyone can access it

Information and knowledge — once gleaned by thumbing through scores of encyclopaedias or painstakingly sorting through yellowing newspapers or microfiche films — is now only a click away. Technology for the most part has also levelled the playing field. We can all be equally informed if we have the technology interfaces or access to them. Most information sourced via the internet is free, including studies and reports, some of which could only previously be procured if you had the cash to pay for it.

Plus, it can be anonymous. Don’t want the world to know you’re a closet GI Joe doll collector? eBay awaits you.

Avoiding the pitfalls

Don’t believe everything you read, see or hear online. Familiarise yourself with credible information portals and search these for information rather than just do a broad internet search. Always check credentials and look for specialised websites endorsed by reputable user groups.

Leading cyber safety expert Susan McLean says the internet should never replace the voice of experts. “It might be great for general information, but you certainly wouldn’t take the word of Wikipedia or Dr Google if you were looking for a way to battle lung cancer,” she says. And, if you are using the internet to source basic information, here’s Susan’s tip: “Try to find the same information across other sites. Good information will always be consistent — but poor information won’t.”

  1. You can work in your PJs

If you’ve never done it before, the sheer bliss of stumbling out of bed, grabbing a coffee, donning your fluffy slippers and being work-ready can never be underrated. With modern technology, you can be connected to your workplace via email, phone or Skype, so in some occupations it becomes possible to work at home.

Such “telecommuting” has also proven to be more cost-effective for business. In a nine-month experiment in a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese firm Ctrip, half the group worked from home four days a week while the other half (the control group) spent all five days in the office. Productivity for the group that spent four days out of five at home increased by a significant 13 per cent.

Avoiding the pitfalls

If you do work from home, it’s important to factor in some time to connect with others so you don’t become socially isolated. Share coffee and a chat with colleagues and friends, make networking events a priority and keep up to date with training events and social functions.

  1. More free time

For decades, people have lamented that their work-life balance needs an overhaul. With modern technology there are no more excuses. You can accomplish more in less time. There’s no need to wait for snail-mail replies or someone to return a call: texts, emails and mobile phones mean you can — theoretically — get instant responses.

It also allows you to make the most of wasted moments. Instead of being stuck in traffic sucking up exhaust fumes, thanks to modern technology you can listen to an e-book or pump up the volume on your tablet and sing out loud to your favourite song (guaranteed you’ll make your fellow commuters smile!).

Avoiding the pitfalls

OK, given you have more time, it doesn’t mean you should spend it at work, toiling even more. Getting off that hamster wheel is important. Spend the time you’ve saved by working smart with technology in doing things that rejuvenate your spirit and bring you joy. Have a play date with the kids, take a walk on the beach or trek through a rainforest. Do something fun and frivolous that has always been on your bucket list but you’ve never had time for before. The possibilities are endless.

  1. It builds communities

Technology allows us to connect with other likeminded souls. Online Forums allow you to share experiences and learn from other people. They help you to network with others, gain ideas and even establish and build relationships with online communities, giving you a sense of connectedness.

Avoiding the pitfalls

Susan McLean says that, while forums can be a positive idea, it’s also important to observe what you see and hear with critical judgement. “I see so many people hanging on every word of bloggers who are actually peddling misinformation,” she says. “Readers often become so wrapped up in the blogger they believe everything they say.”

It’s also important to use location tracking services wisely. Think before you share information or meet your online friends, and value your privacy and personal boundaries. If someone you’ve met online asks you to step outside your comfort zone — don’t.

  1. It’s making us smarter

With information at our fingertips, we are accessing far more snippets of information than before and so limbering up our brains a whole lot more. Certain apps can also change the way we think and learn. Clive Thompson, Author of Smarter than you Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better, argues that “today’s digital tools help us to see more, retain more, communicate more”.

Avoiding the pitfalls

Not everyone agrees, though. Associate professor Val Hooper and Masters student Channa Herath, researchers from Wellington’s Victoria University in New Zealand, say online reading is making us lazy. We tend to skim and scan and, as a result, aren’t retaining as much information. The solution? Slow down and centre your thoughts so you are truly in the present moment and can absorb the information.

  1. It’s available any time and anywhere

Just realised you forgot to send someone a birthday card? Send them an e-card. Want to comfort a friend who has lost a loved one? Send flowers online. Feel like you need a little soulful wisdom at 2am? Google it.

The way the internet is set up makes it easy to find what you want: to tune into a meditation, check out a self-help group, access information. For students, it provides a rich learning environment that can be interactive, and it can also appeal to a rich cross-section of learning styles. Some people are more visual while others are more auditory; yet others learn more through hands-on activities or word play.

Have you always wanted to go to university but can’t take time off work or do evening classes? Open learning across TAFE colleges and universities has created a brave new world of learning opportunities.

Avoiding the pitfalls

Some people experience a form of anxiety called fear of missing out (FOMO) if they aren’t plugged in. Experts tell us it’s one of the reasons people become enslaved to their techno gizmos.

Leslie Posen, a clinical psychologist with a special interest in technologies in practice, says it’s OK to switch off. In fact, he says that making yourself available 24/7 is far from healthy. His advice is to set goals for the day and develop good online filtering habits so you can attend to what’s critical, and leave the rest for when you have time.

“Have regular breaks and do some mindful exercises so you’re aware of what’s going on around you,” he says. “Take the dog for a walk to the park so you interact with other pets and people. You can still have your phone in your pocket in case of an emergency.”

If you don’t unplug, you might fall victim to cognitive or information overload, which can affect not only your performance but also sleep patterns. “You can’t keep all the plates spinning in the air at one time — something will be overlooked,” Posen says.

  1. It can be good for your physical health!

With fitness apps that can track how many steps you take each day and apps that count kilojoules, making you think twice about wolfing down that slice of chocolate cake, there are no more excuses. With apps like Swap It Don’t Stop It, you can make smarter food choices, and with ones like Fitness Builder you can access exercise images. There are loads of online gizmos, gadgets and tutorials to get you crunching those abs with finesse. Technology has heralded a new age in fitness.

Avoiding the pitfalls

Apps can help you get fitter — provided you use them! Technology can also promote inactivity as users sit transfixed by screens instead of engaging in active pursuits. According to the Australian Medical Association’s 2014 report on physical activity, 60–70 per cent of us are not getting enough exercise.

Joanne Turner, a dietitian and exercise physiologist from NuActive Health, says with the global proliferation of social networking services it also becomes easy to compare yourself with others, and this can promote anxiety and fuel unhealthy competitiveness. “Young girls in particular can feel the pressure of body image. There’s a trend at the moment on Facebook, with some girls taking photos with their hip bones showing and a concave stomach. It isn’t healthy,” she says.

There’s also the danger of some aspects of multimedia offering a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness, adds Turner. “You certainly wouldn’t take a Facebook friend’s medication, but many people wouldn’t hesitate to go on a diet someone on Facebook is on,” she says.

Top technologies

So where are we headed in five, 10, 50 years from now? Cars that drive themselves, space-powered solar, video tattoos and lab-grown internal organs are just the beginning.

Some of these will blow your mind!

  • Brain computer interfaces — computers that can read and interpret signals directly from your brain!
  • Three-dimensional printing, adding layers until it forms a replica of the actual object.
  • Paper-thin computer screens. These can turn a mirror, window, just about anything, into a computer screen.
  • High-tech pillows to monitor brain activity, showing dreams and even allowing people to share dreams.
  • On the green front, solar-powered keyboards, flying wind farms, ways to convert waste heat to clean green energy, and jets that will fly on weed biofuel.


 

Carrol Baker

Carrol Baker is an award-winning freelance journalist who is a passionate advocate of natural health and wellness. She writes for lifestyle and healthy-living magazines across Australia and internationally.