Modern technology has dramatically changed the fabric of our day-to-day lives. At its best, it has brought the free flow of information along with wonderful opportunities for learning and education to billions of people around the globe. At its worst, it has sown discord and anger, amplifying hostility and negativity at the expense of kindness and common sense.
While there’s no shortage of articles and studies on the negative effects of technology, it’s important to not forget that our spiritual journeys and our connections to our Higher Selves can be impacted by spending too much time in the digital world. Here are four ways excessive tech usage can weaken or cloud the connection we have with our Higher Selves:
What is the Higher Self? Our Higher Self is an accumulation of our most positive characteristics, a representation of our inner wisdom and hidden potential. When we have a close relationship with our Higher Self, we become the best possible version of ourselves.
1) We Avoid Stillness
Now that we have access to social media and news in our pockets at all times, it’s easy to become accustomed to being entertained or engaged at every waking moment. This wondrous technology has the potential to make us highly informed and educated (depending on how we use it), but this power can come at the expense of our mental and spiritual well-being.
This study from the University of California showed an increase in symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (aka ADHD, formerly referred to as ADD) in teenagers who reported high use of technology. Over a short, two-year period, the study showed a significant increase in symptoms of ADHD in the students, particularly an inability to sit still.
Learning to embrace stillness is an essential aspect of spiritual practice, and the best way to practice stillness is through the act of meditation. When we sit in stillness during meditation, we learn to rest our minds, break out of harmful thought patterns, embrace gratitude, and evaluate our lives through a clear, unattached lens, all of which brings us closer to our Higher Selves. Without this stillness, our inner feelings (also known as our intuition) never have space to be heard and seen, and our inner wisdom stays hidden under a barrage of digital noise.
2) We Lose Our Attention Span and Memory
The same study from the University of California also showed that students who used technology “many times a day” suffered from the inability to get organized and complete tasks (another symptom of ADHD). This is particularly worrying to see in young people working towards their education, and other studies have shown similar detrimental effects in adults. A lack of productivity and organization may not sound like a spiritual issue, but not being able to focus can severely impact our spiritual progress.
Learning is a key part of spiritual development, and if we struggle to read a chapter of a book without losing focus, our progress will be slowed significantly. And since our vocation (or our life’s work) is such a key part of spirituality and connecting with our Higher Selves, we need to be organized and productive in our daily life. This is especially true if we only realize our true vocation later on in life and need to make a career change. Other studies have also linked technology to a decrease in memory, another important trait that keeps us moving forward on our spiritual journey.
3) We Become Less Open-Hearted
Our society often associates the heart with romantic love. This isn’t wrong, but it’s not a complete picture. The heart is the seat of so much more than the love we feel for our partners: it is a site of wisdom and compassion that can radiate positivity into every part of our lives. When we live our lives with an open heart, we can change the world through acts of empathy, availability, and kindness.
Sadly, the news and social media are more often filled with negative headlines and unrealistic depictions of life, clouding our hearts with anger and envy. “If it bleeds, it leads” is an old expression that is even more applicable today. This is because people have a “negativity bias” that leads them to focus on negative headlines, often remembering those stories at a much higher rate than positive ones about all the good in the world. With our lower emotions being fed through algorithms and news segments designed to spark us into fits of anger and keep us staring at our screens, living from our heart and connecting with our Higher Selves becomes increasingly difficult.
4) We Avoid Nature
Spending time in nature has a cleansing effect on our minds and our spirits, helping us shed negative emotions and bringing us closer to our Higher Selves. The positive benefits of sunlight are well documented. Just a short time in the sun can increase your vitamin D levels and boost your serotonin, which improves your overall mood and ability to focus. As many of us have discovered in the last couple of years, it can be difficult to let go of negative emotions when we spend all of our time bottled up in closed spaces. Sadly, the pull of technology is reducing the time we spend in nature.
A fascinating study conducted by federal wildlife and park agencies confirmed this trend, noting that “the increasing use of computers, smartphones, televisions, and other technology, coupled with a growing movement from rural areas, is pulling many Americans away from the natural world… It is increasingly normal to spend little time outside.” More than half of Americans spend less than 5 hours per week outside, and parents of kids 8-12 said their kids spend three times as much time in front of screens than they do playing outside. With technology becoming ever more portable and harder to escape, it’s more important than ever that we value our time outdoors as a true break from technology, not a time to look at our phones while lounging in the park.
Strategies for Using Less Technology
Be Mindful of Your Thoughts and Emotions: Shunning technology completely is not exactly an option in the modern world, but we can remain mindful and self-aware about our consumption. Not all technology is bad, especially in moderation. For example, watching an hour-long documentary is infinitely better for our minds than mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Ask yourself, is there one app, game, or show that you find makes you particularly distracted or angry? Remain observant as you use technology, and focus on cutting out the worst offenders entirely.
Don’t Wake Up With Technology: Our first decisions in the morning can set the tone for the rest of our day, which is why it’s so often recommended you start your day by making your bed. If your waking hour is productive and mindful, those feelings of accomplishment and calm will carry over into the rest of your day. On the other hand, if you spend that time staring at your phone or your laptop, your brain will probably want to continue doing that for the rest of the day. And if you’re one of those people who can’t resist the urge to check their phone before they’ve even left the bed, try leaving your phone outside your room to help reduce the temptation.
Designate Specific Times for Social Media and TV: Setting a schedule for our technology usage can train our brain to not crave digital stimulation all hours of the day while keeping our overall usage to a minimum. Setting aside an hour or two in the evening is usually the best time to indulge.
Set a Curfew: Using technology in the evening can be just as harmful as in the morning, albeit for different reasons. The blue light emitted from screens can negatively impact our sleep patterns, and the stimulation of doing just about anything from watching TV to scrolling through social media can keep our brains from achieving a relaxed and restful state.
Take a Day Off (Or Better Yet, a Whole Vacation): Just a single day away from technology can be a remarkable breather for your brain. And if you feel like you need an extra deep cleanse, try taking an entire vacation where you don’t use the internet or watch TV at all (aside from getting those directions you need to not get lost!).