The Tech Tap-Tap

I am at the local YMCA waiting to pick my boys up from childcare. I’m several people back in line. As I assess the situation the first thought through my mind is:

“This is going to be a couple minutes”

The next thought through my mind is:

“I wonder if anyone has messaged me today.”

My family calls this the smart phone “tap tap”. It’s like your phone just sits on your shoulder and occasionally taps you in the brain as a reminder to come back.

It’s easy to use tech as an escape from boredom. It feels that sites like Facebook were designed for use in the brief down moments in life.  Yet the constant “tap tap” feels like I’m not actually the one in control of when I use my phone. Instead it feels like my phone dictates when I need to use it.

We create technology to be convenient and attractive. It’s good to have it be engaging, right?

Is it Healthful?

There’s nothing wrong with checking social media. There’s nothing wrong with playing a mobile game. But there is definitely something off about my incessant need to check.  The truth is, I very rarely come away from social media feeling better about myself, my life, or my choices.

So, why do I get the urge to check social media every time I’m…

  • stuck at a long stop light (now illegal in WA)
  • in an awkward public waiting area (grocery store, bank, restroom, DMV)
  • Walking down the hallway between classes at work

It’s like I’m aren’t allowing my mind to be bored – I need constant stimulation.

The Danger of a Cluttered Mind

Recent studies have shown that we are spending an ever-expanding amount of time on our phones. In fact we’re spending over 69% more time in apps than we did just last year.

We’re also finding out that social media tends to not be the good parts of social: it stresses us out, makes us feel depressed and leads to feelings of isolation.

MIT Professor and clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle addressed this idea in her TED talk: Connected but Alone. Dr. Turkle points out that we focus on technology it promises to give us:

  1. The power to put our attention wherever we want
  2. A voice that will always be heard
  3. Friends who will never let us be alone

3 Ways to battle the Tech tap-tap

Dr. Turkle warns we need to have the ability to be by ourselves.  or risk using others around us to find our value: “We need to cultivate a capacity for solitude”.

3 great ways to battle the tap-tap:

  1. Build the muscle: There are times when it’s convenient (line, light, waiting) and you choose not to check. Practice makes permanent.
  2. Get in nature: It can be a walk, a hike, a sunset, a swim. Remember the goal isn’t to break a sweat. The goal is to remind your brain how incredible this world can be.
  3. Scheduling time away from tech: This can be as simple as no phones at the dinner table. (which may mean intentionally scheduling a family dinner).

Choices are half the battle

Dr. Turkle leaves us with this somber reminder of the importance of our modeling balanced and healthful tech choices: “If we don’t teach our children how to be alone, they will only be lonely.” I would add: They don’t have to be. Together we can support our young people to achieve their full potential.


More Resources

For more resources on healthful and balanced tech choices be sure to check out: