Don't Let Apps Rule Your Life: Managing Your Relationship to Technology
Technology is a huge part of our lives, but how can we manage our use of tech to protect ourselves?
In this interview, coach Neil Lawrence explores the influence of dating apps and the pressures of other online communication
Living in the modern world it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when you are using technology to organise your life. The possibilities for stress are endless:
Will you ever reach the end of your to-do list?
How can you commit to anything without FOMO?
What if you express an opinion that gets you cancelled?
We recently spoke to Welldoing member Neil Lawrence who is a coach working with individual clients as well as being lead coach working with young people. “I tend to see people who are looking for change and feel they are outside the system - whether that be their sexual identity, they are neurodiverse like me, or living with chronic ill health, as I do.”
Neil spoke to fellow coaches and therapists on a Welldoing CPD session, but we can all recognise the issues he was addressing, and learn from his well thought-out solutions to organise your tech communication to prevent burnout.
What if you are overwhelmed by your to-do list?
My practical advice is to take three things off. People gasp, but get in the habit of doing less and you’ll see that slowing down will sustain you for longer. Binary thinking focuses on success and failure, but why? How much attention are we giving to ticking off that list, and how much judgement are we bringing to what we need to do on that particular day?
There is a tension between staying present and getting things done. I suggest clients translate mindfulness principles into real life: there is a pull to what we have done in the past, and a pull to what we plan to do in the future, and the two can be really difficult to reconcile. If we are always thinking about the future then we don’t bring our attention to what is going on, but if not thinking at all about the future, we are not doing well either. We have to look for a balance.
What can we do about procrastination?
Instead of chewing things over in your mind, try to trust your gut. I find it more and more useful to wait and see how my gut feels about what I can’t get going.
Procrastination should lead us to questioning why, what is getting in the way?
Is tech largely helpful to us?
As someone with fibromyalgia my ability to sit in my lounge and be able to communicate with people all over the world is an incredible thing. It leads to an enormous number of possibilities – and it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number.
I also wonder if we are meeting lots of people at surface level, all that smiley face emoji stuff. Is that at the cost of actually meeting people and making deeper relationships and connections? So there is no clear answer to your question!
Why are so many people finding it difficult to commit to a date or appointment?
I can almost sense the fear of commitment. And people worry about the time it takes to respond to an email or being ghosted – how do you manage all of that? A lot hinges on being validated. It’s easy to slip into a dependency set-up without realising it.
How seriously do your clients take fears about saying ’the wrong thing’ and being cancelled?
Very seriously. It’s everywhere and the stakes feel really high. The pace we live at is so fast, trying to keep up at that level is so difficult and it triggers our fight, flight, freeze response. The highly judgemental nature and presence of negativity bias, means that people are petrified to get it wrong. There is a lot of hierarchical fighting going on.
Many people are left feeling ill-equipped to speak to others. Communication has changed. Partly this is the effect of the pandemic, but also too many surface interactions at the expense of depth has left us much less able to ‘read’ others and make meaningful connections.
Do you sense people are wanting to spend less time on their phones?
I do have more clients who are expressing that desire. I think it’s wise to consider how much time you can spend on social media. Any app that encourages large chunks of time in the online world at the expense of the real one, and encourages dependency and outside validation should be treated with caution.
What do you feel about dating apps?
There’s an enormous amount of emotional and wellbeing issues raised by clients who use apps like Tinder and Grindr. Not just about who you meet and staying safe, it’s also the idea that people are disposable, can be constantly judged, there’s aggression, and ghosting. Users need to be aware that these apps are there to feed your insecurities.
Increasing numbers of people are finding it hard to face the outside world, and for them it might be really important to get out and mix with people, not on their phones, but in real life.
Neil Lawrence is a verified Welldoing coach in South East London and online