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When Our Devices Become Vices

by Dan King and Mark Guterman

Photo of man with multiple devicesIt’s hard to imagine life without our laptops, tablets, and smart phones. What is it about technical gadgets that inspire levels of personal investment, adoration, and addiction?

Maybe it’s their omnipresence. Just about everyone has one, and they are either central or peripheral players in many of the basic things we do every day. We use the technology to communicate professionally and socially. We use them to listen to music, to be informed; some of us even use them to keep track of the whereabouts of our loved (and not so loved) ones.

Modern technology helps us stay connected to inexhaustible amounts of information and vast networks of personal contacts through the phone, email, text messages, online chat, Twitter, Facebook, iPhones, Droids and other mobile devices. Though the opportunities that these technologies provide are exciting, the complexity of the intertwined real and virtual lives that many of us have fashioned can have a devastating effect, leaving us distracted, irritated, and feeling overwhelmed — and less able to achieve satisfaction and meaning in work and life.

How do you integrate the technology in a way that balances efficiency with the deeper drives and needs met through meaningful work? Some thoughts:

Are you an “early adopter” or a “late adopter?” We all need to adopt and learn ways to work more efficiently, but we need to do it at a pace that maintains a balance with our values and needs. Meaningful work is less about “adopting” and more about “adapting” — at whatever pace suits you. Continuous adaptation to relevant technology not only helps you to stay current, but also to integrate behaviors and habits that preserve your most cherished beliefs about how to best spend your time.

Are you “leading edge” or “trailing edge?” Everyone needs to have an edge in today’s workworld and to know how to articulate it in a compelling way. A clear “value proposition” will enable you to leverage your capabilities through social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Building competence with these and other emerging social media provide a platform for broad exposure of your talents — and give you an edge in discovering work that you’ll find satisfying and meaningful.

Are you driven to distraction … or being driven by distraction? Obsession with technology creates an environment of almost constant interruptions and distractions. The smartphone, more than any other gadget, steals from us the opportunity to maintain our attention, to engage in contemplation and reflection, or even to be alone with our thoughts. Meaningful work is about making choices in the direction of fulfilling purpose. If we are unable or unwilling to put boundaries around the use of our devices, we can easily become “technoholics,” with lives tethered to technology and devoid of personal values and moral principles.

Undoubtedly, our devices are amazing in their power and reach. They let us connect and produce in ways that were unimaginable just a generation ago. But they provide neither the goal nor the purpose of a meaningful life. They are simply sophisticated tools that enable streamlining of life and work. It is up to each of us to decide when to best utilize our devices and when to “de-vice” … because a virtual life is not a substitute for a real one.


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