The PoweR of Stepping Back

      65 Comments on The PoweR of Stepping Back
Tony Schwartz

Tony Schwartz

I forbid the use of electronic devices in class.  It’s distracting and rude when a student pulls out a cellphone.  It’s also upsetting when I see a family at dinner with their attention focused on phones instead of personal interaction.  And texting while driving?  It’s potentially deadly and completely unnecessary.  But our screens too often prevent us from focusing and reflecting on what and who is right in front of us.

We’re addicted to our mobile devices and the access they give.  They’re the dominant way we communicate, gather information, shop, and learn.  My favorite recent statistic from the Kaiser Family Foundation is that on average, 8-to-18 year-olds spend 11 1/2 hours in front of screens every day!

In an article published this week in The New York Times, Tony Schwartz, author and CEO of the Energy Project, talked about “The Power of Stepping Back.”  While vacationing for two weeks, he was completely offline and says it was an amazing experience. “Time without interruptions and imminent deadlines was an incredible luxury,” he wrote. “I didn’t feel rushed to arrive at conclusions or solutions. I could pursue an idea or a direction without worrying about its immediate utility.  It allowed me to take a much more long-range view.”  After returning to work, Schwartz built time into his employees’ workday for quiet time and meditation, designed to allow for thought and ideas rather than trying to get as much done in as little time as possible.

“It’s not possible to race between meetings and e-mail all day long, and simultaneously reflect on what all this frenzied activity is accomplishing,” Schwartz added. “We can’t think outside the box when we’re simply running around inside it.  It doesn’t make sense to do more and more, faster and faster, if we’re not stopping intermittently to ask why we’re doing what we’re doing.

My PR students–and most of us–often complain about workload and stress.  I truly believe our anxiousness would ease if we made time to experience the world and think beyond our screens.  Your thoughts?

 

65 thoughts on “The PoweR of Stepping Back

  1. Richard I

    It is no shock that we live in the age of technology. With new cellular devices coming out every 2 months, laptops weighing less than a spiral notebook and TV screens that are thinner than a butter knife, it is impossible for our generation to disconnect. Don’t get me wrong, I love when I am not on my phone 24/7. Going to Cancun last spring was one of the best times of my life and not having a phone attached to my hip made the experience so much better but having a phone has just as many benefits. One of the biggest benefits is the safety precautions. Also, many people assume we “kids” are “text messaging” when in reality we are probably aren’t and using our phones for different reasons. Whether its emailing your internship boss back, checking the portal, reading CNN Breaking News or even just checking the weather and time, I would personally like people to put their phones down to enjoy the company of others and when they need to be respectful but what I do not like is when people assume I am using my phone for nonsense business when sometimes it can be urgent. Just because the older generation did not have these advances in technology does not mean the younger generations needs to step back in time. We are evolving and the technology that is being created today is helping millions of people all over the world whether in hospitals, boardrooms, universities and homes.

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  2. Jeremy Epstein

    I wish I could say that I was surprised of the statistic that 8 to 18 year olds spend 11.5 hours on screens every day but I am not. They have constant access to the internet, social media, etc. When I was younger I would spend time on the internet or my cell phone but I would always make a point to go outside and interact with other people. Nowadays, kids are very introverted and just use their phones rather than interact with others.

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  3. cpopp1991

    I couldn’t agree more, in this age of smart phones and social media we get so caught up the business of life that we forget a very important principle; Rest. It is a balance, without adequate rest you cannot work hard. Unless you work hard it is hard to rest.

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  4. Robert Ryan

    Naturally when you go on vacation it is much easier to step away. Even when I was younger I would hide my phone from myself and just enjoy family time. But of course things have changed A LOT in 5 years time since I would hit the jersey shore with my family. The explosion of smart phones and the accessibility they provide to the entire world while sitting in the comfort of your own home has clouded the line of when and where it is appropriate to use your phone. In terms of Schwartz’ idea of “stepping back”. I completely agree. But as a “responsible adult” (I am 20 years old now) you have to control yourself. Yes, a boring class is extremely tempting to sit on your phone, but if this occurs why even attend the class? Schwartz is allowing his employees time for meditation. So set aside times for yourself when you shouldn’t use it class time, gym time, and meal time. My biggest pet peeve is when someone is texting at the dinner table. After hearing the statistic of 11.5 hours is the average a teenager sits in front of a screen. Will there ever be an application that allows you to designate when you can and can’t use your phone for your own convenience? I doubt it.

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  5. Marilyn Oliver

    Wow, that statistic is alarming, 11.5 hours?! I contemplate this a great deal as I’m sure so many of us do; the purpose behind it all, using social media to our greatest advantage, and the obligation we feel to continually join and interact as more and more facets of social media are created. Ultimately, everyone benefits from time spent away from the screen. I know I’m much more creative and less stressed on the rare occasion I do take that break. So many of us, including myself, seem to wait for permission to take that break from screens but the reality is that the emails won’t stop coming in and the social media notifications won’t stop piling up. Unless we take it upon ourselves to schedule time “unplugged” that perpetual obligation (and sometimes anxiety) to constantly check our devices will not relent, and perhaps, ultimately, diminish our creativity and productivity.

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  6. Emily Green

    I agree that in our current generation, the use of technology is way too prominent. We spend so much time looking at screens with the impression that it is helping us, when in reality it is only hurting us. It takes time away the importance of human interaction and makes us afraid of confrontation; it takes away from family interaction when families sit on their devices while sitting in a room together; it stresses the importance of deadlines and projects and takes away the importance of taking a breath and having time to think. If we could spend less time caring about the cyber world and take more time for ourselves, we could remove some stress from our lives and improve relationships with the people in our lives.

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  7. Alexandra Ciongoli

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I am a nineteen-year-old college student (and a PR major!) and I often find myself stressed out by the underlying pressure to keep up with technology. I feel guilty if too much time goes by without my checking my email. I grow anxious in class because I worry I am missing an important event on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I stress that world news is happening and I am unaware of it. Having technology at your fingertips is quite a triumph, but I also feel that there are plenty of downfalls that accompany wielding such convenient power. I personally find it hard to disconnect myself, (both physically and mentally) from my phone. I think that the people of my generation could definitely use a daily disconnection from the virtual world behind their screens, and only after we unplug will we be able to relax and properly focus on whatever tasks lie ahead.

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  8. acasole

    I agree with the points that are brought up in this article, but sadly in this day and age it seems almost impossible to disconnect in such a way. Technology and social media have become such important parts of our lives and are also such an important communication tool as well. One of the great things about technology today is that it allows us to have almost instant communication with someone that isn’t with you at that given time. The negative about this instant communication is that if you disconnect for a certain amount of time, although you are putting your stress and your mind at ease, you could also potentially be missing out on important conversation and communication. I found it interesting that Schwartz was able to disconnect and relax for the entire duration of his vacation, but personally throughout this time the lack of technology and communication would create a stress on my life because I would constantly be thinking about what I was missing out on. I think it’s sad that technology is becoming such a necessity for my generation because now it seems like it is almost impossible to ever completely disconnect. Although it does seem extremely difficult, I do believe that stepping back from technology and enjoying face to face interaction more frequently is something that could be extremely rewarding.

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  9. Richard Rocha

    I appreciated Schwartz’s quote, “We can’t think outside the box when we’re simply running around inside it.” I find that it’s hard to access the part of our brain that creates and imagines when we have so much on our plate. Technology has made us forever conscious of how busy the world is and how fast it is moving. This makes us feel like we in turn have to move faster. And when we move faster, someone else sees how fast we are moving via the social media and decides they need to pick up the pace. I feel as though we will keep speeding up due to technology and eventually burn out.

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  10. Rachel Tyler

    I agree 100%. In this day and age it hard to go throughout the day with out checking my phone every chance I get. In fact it is the first thing I do in the morning. I give myself an extra half an hour before getting dressed so that I have the time to check all my social media accounts and my email. I do find that checking my phone so often is a bit of a burden but I feel like it is something that I have to do or else I may miss something important. Over the summer I went on a week long cruise and what an eye opening experience. For this week I did not have my phone turned on and I did not have to carry it around with me. I realized how much I was missing throughout the day that i would normally not even notice because my eyes would be glued onto my phone. Now that it is a few months since the cruise I so find myself on my phone less often and just taking in what it around me. At dinner I do notice my parents are on the phones more then my brother, my sister, and I. I make it a point to tell ask them to put their phones away. We all live busy lives and this should be a time to catch up and enjoy each others company and not your friends on Facebook. Spending dinner without everyone on their phones is a wonderful time of day for me. We can talk about our days and enjoy each others company without having to worry about who is sending us messages.

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  11. Jordan Richmond

    You are definitely not alone in this sentiment. I have a friend who is an IT major, and even he agrees that his ideal world would be one without technology. However, the world never seems to go backward in terms of technology, so I can’t see this problem being something easily changed. We’re a nation which stresses timeliness and convenience, and if having your entire business on your phone increases your ability to be prompt with something or makes it easier for you to complete a task, people are going to continue to utilize this ability and work to make it even quicker and more efficient.

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  12. kerry stewart

    I agree with this post also. I honestly think that especially the younger generations, cannot stand to be without their phones for five minutes. They seemed obsessed with the fact that they’ll be missing out on something if they don’t reply to a text right away, that they’re missing what’s going on in front of their faces. My parents would definitely level with Prof. Morosoff here because they grew up in an age of only landlines, which they barely needed to use. They see cell phones as a distraction on all levels and they get extremely agitated when they see me or my siblings texting or looking down at it. Although they may take it a little TOO personally, they have a point. It is rude to sit in someones company and stare at your phone as they stare at you. Communication is a big part of the world, and it’s starting to become a thing done solely through email, text, and social media. It’s an entity we should work on not losing and although this great technology is helping us as a race advance to the future, we should not lose sight of the past either.

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  13. rachaeldurant

    I agree with this post on some levels. I agree that our society has been taken over by the cellphone epidemic. While it should be shocking that children spend on average 11 1/2 hours a day in front of the screen, I easily believe it. I have my cellphone with me everywhere I go. I often check my text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. These types of technology are great in that they allow for direct and efficient communication with people both near and far. Unfortunately, they also appear to be a catalyst for the decline of interpersonal skills in the physical domain. I cannot count the number of times my friends and I have been sitting silently in a room, all staring blankly at our own screens. While I agree that certain types of electronic devices, such as cellphones, often serve as a distraction in the classroom, I wish more professors would make the distinction between these distractors and other helpful technologies. Personally, I feel there is a benefit to using laptops in a classroom setting. They allow for more multi-media presentations. This can serve people with several learning styles. I believe the best course of action is to actively advocate how to successfully and responsibly use these kinds of technology. We need to find ways to integrate them so that we can reap the benefits of technology, while also maintaining and improving upon our direct social skills.

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  14. Chelsey Fuller

    This post could not be more accurate. I would love to say that I’m not addicted to my devices but I am. I can not go a day without checking my email or my twitter. This is simply because this is the routine I’ve set up for myself and that I am used to. I think it would be an amazing experience to disconnect myself from all the distracting technology but at the same time I feel like that is almost impossible. Professors and employers rely on you to check your emails or texts for updates on class or projects so we automatically feel inclined to check our phones and computers ten times a day. However, I commend professors who strictly enforce the no cell phone policy. There is honestly nothing more annoying than presenting to a class and all you see are heads staring down into laps. We can be so distracted by our smart phones that we honestly do miss out on the wonderful and beautiful things on this earth. Hopefully, we can find a medium with technology and not completely drown ourselves in it all the time.

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  15. Alexandra Cohen

    I agree one hundred percent with this article. There is no way I could have my iPhone out on my desk during class because I would be tempted to text and check social media sites. I’m not attached to my iPhone and I don’t feel incomplete without having it with me all the time. When I have my iPhone with me, I keep checking social media to make sure I’m up to date with everything. When I step away from my phone for just a few minutes or even a few hours it’s such a relief and so relaxing. We rely on technology as part of our everyday life that people are forgetting how to interact with actual human beings due to texting and becoming less intelligent by relying on spell check. Also overtime staring at a screen can affect a person’s eyesight. People end up missing out on what’s in front of them because they’re so consumed with their smartphones.

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  16. Max Eisenberg

    I agree entirely with this article. This is one of the main reasons I’ve never owned a smart phone and don’t plan on it is because I see people everyday glued to their phones and almost appear like zombies in front of the screen. I find certain technology to be a great benefit to our everyday lives including a computer for research and mp3 players to enjoy music but there is always a time of day to step away from it all. Mentioning meditation is key to helping give employees a chance of peace and quiet and I find meditation helps me stay relaxed as a student. While cell phones and other technology are useful, they are not needed by any means. People have gotten by without their help and I don’t see why we can’t all get by without it in this day and age.

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  17. jeremydbeck

    While I do believe this generation spends too much time in front of screens, it is a necessary “evil”. The culture we live in demands instant gratification, which translates into live tweeting,constant notifications, and non stop correspondence. To live in our society demands that we stay glued to our screens if we want to stay abreast of the latest happenings, whether its news on a societal level or a personal level. We don’t want to miss out on information, yet information is perpetually being released. We are missing out on happenings and news if we disconnect, even for a few hours. This is essentially the dilemma that we must face when we feel like disconnecting for a while.

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  18. Zoe Hoffmann

    The younger generations constantly get criticized for spending way too much time in front of screens, whether it’s their cell phones, computers, televisions, iPads, etc. I believe the bigger issue lies in why we feel the need to constantly be accessible to our peers and family and the desperation to always be “in the know.” Eleven and a half hours seems like a ridiculous amount of time. Almost half a day, spent in front of screens? How is that possible? While it seems startling, after much consideration it really isn’t all that surprising. I am always on my phone. My boss could need something instantly and if I don’t happen to check it for a few hours, thats my fault. My friends may need to ask me a question or want to meet up. I can’t even go to the gym anymore without being surrounded by televisions. As crazy as it is, the younger generations are almost immune to it. We check our phones subconsciously and not having service seems like the end of the world. It’s concerning but it’s also how we live our lives. We consume media, stay in touch, do our work, study, read and chat on these devices. I just wonder what it will take for future generations to not be so dependent and reliable on these devices. How could we live our lives without these things? The topic certainly surfaces many new questions that we don’t have answers to.

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  19. akrame27

    Before reading and after reading this post I without even realizing it checked my phone for a new email or text because that is so common and natural for me despite what I may be focusing on. There is a constant need to stay connected whether it is important or not. One time last year I actually challenged myself to delete my facebook for a week during finals week due to the fact that every time I sat down to write my final sociology paper I would end up somehow on facebook. Needless to say I only lasted three days… However everything mentioned in The PoweR of Stepping Back I 100% agree with. Why can’t there be an extended period of time where technology just isn’t a priority? If that occurred maybe communicating would take place more in person as oppose to through a text message.

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  20. Will Martinez

    As with everyone else, I couldn’t agree more. Our generation has grown up with mobile devices closely by our sides. I think it is extremely detrimental to constantly be on a phone texting, surfing the web or checking social media. By not fully taking in your surroundings, you lose touch with reality. When I go on vacation, I always leave my phone in the hotel room. It’s rude to my parents, who paid for the vacation, to be texting while in their presence. Although mobile devices have allowed us to be constantly connected, the disconnect with real life and human contact is unhealthy.

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  21. Julia Ryan

    I have to agree with the argument that our generation spends too much time looking at screens. Much like Tony Schwartz’s experience, I went to Mexico this summer and was not allowed to bring my cell phone and did not have computer access for an entire week. I felt so at peace without having to be logged on; it actually surprised me. It was interesting to find that my mom was more upset about being without her phone than I was!

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  22. caitlin

    In my generation it is so sad to see that we are literally addicted to our mobile phones, tablets, and computers. Yes, they are helpful and resourceful but they take away from human interaction. The statistic about the amount of time we spend in front of screens is shocking but I don’t doubt it for a second. The past few years I have volunteered at a sleep away summer camp where NO electronics are allowed. It was so sad to see high school aged students whine, complain, and even cry that they weren’t allowed to use their devices but it allowed them to create stronger bonds with their peers and have carefree fun. Being “unplugged” is rewarding and relaxing I wish it was an option more of the time.

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  23. caitlin

    In my generation it is so sad to see that we are literally addicted to our mobile phones, tablets, and computers. Yes, they are helpful and resourceful but they take away from human interaction. The statistic about the amount of time we spend in front of screens is shocking but I don’t doubt it for a second. The past few years I have volunteered at a sleep away summer camp where NO electronics are allowed. It was so sad to see high school aged students whine, complain, and even cry that they weren’t allowed to use their devices but it allowed them to create stronger bonds with their peers and have carefree fun. Being “unplugged” is rewarding and relaxing I wish it was more of an option in daily life.

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  24. lmansl1

    Many a time I have caught myself or my friends looking to their cellphone when there is a lull in the conversation. This usually leads to a few minutes where each party is scrolling their phones instead of talking to the person sitting in front of them. Oftentimes I will be sitting at a table with a group of friends and I’ll just laugh to myself as each of them updates status’ and posts pictures of what we’re doing yet no one is communicating with the people around them.

    On the other hand, I visited my friend in Ireland over the summer for two weeks living in her home and experiencing European life first hand, they have very different media habits. It was refreshing going out to dinner with a group of her friends because barely anyone pulled out their phones to retreat into a digital shell. On the slight chance that someone did another friend would call them out on it and tell them to put it away.

    I believe retreating to phones during a lull in conversation hinders a person’s ability to expand their thoughts and have a normal flowing conversation with others. When one topic of conversation dies, instead of expanding on it or starting a new conversation, people wipe the slate clean and start surfing their phone. Sure, it’s easy to retreat into your cellphone when an awkward silence encompasses the table, but how will people learn to converse and have a mature flowing conversation? I believe the ability to have a flowing and intelligent conversation with someone is one of the most important things in life. If it doesn’t start with putting your phone away when you’re having fun with friends, there is little hope.

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  25. jessicaxxrebello

    “I truly believe our anxiousness would ease if we made time to experience the world and think beyond our screens.” This comment you made was my favorite part of this post because I couldn’t agree more. When it’s time for me to sit down and do my homework, I would say I spend about 30mins to an hour procrastinating on my phone or on the Internet looking through social media sites before actually starting anything. Why I do this I’m really not sure… it’s a bad habit of mine and sometimes I end up spending more then an hour doing it. I personally do try to make an effort to stay off my phone when I’m with my friends or family. I find it funny when me and my friends are in public and all of a sudden I look up from my phone and see that we’re all using our phones and not even talking to one another. To the people around us we must look so ridiculous.

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  26. madalyntundis

    One of my professors has asked us to record the things we do on a daily basis for the next 6 days. This is a media class, and the idea is to draw attention and awareness to how much time we spend with the media. I’ve only done one day, and today was a fairly busy day and I didn’t spend much time with the media, but even when we think that, we’re still spending time with the media. Every cell phone glance, twitter feed refresh, and email check adds up to hours and hours of constant connection to the media. We as a society have gotten used to the idea of technology being a part of our everyday lives and everything that we do, but when we step back, as Schwartz did, we would see what a difference that really makes.

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  27. Adriana Zappolo

    As much as I love my phone, and I am guilty of using it way too much, I agree! A few weeks ago I went on a cruise and I could not use my phone because of roaming charges. It was a really relaxing experience to be able to enjoy what was going on around me. I was able to fully pay attention to my surroundings and all of the beautiful places I visited. And most importantly, I was able to enjoy quality time with my family without any distractions. I’m not going to lie; I missed my phone a lot. It was weird not being able to check my texts or social media sites. But by the end of the cruise I realized that I wouldn’t have appreciated the vacation as much as I did if I had my phone attached to me 24/7. Although I think it is great how technology is developing, and we have so many sources of news and communication at our fingertips, I think it is necessary to take a step back once in a while. I agree that this might ease our anxiousness if we just take some time to see the world through our own eyes rather than through a screen.

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  28. cmadsenpr

    I absolutely agree that too much of our time is spent looking at screens, with iPhones it’s difficult not to be on it most of the time, however the reality is that in today’s day and age, and especially in PR we need to be using these tools all the time. Tony Schwartz may have been able to go media free for two weeks on vacation but he probably had to take a lot of precautions to do so, such as informing his company, family and friends, set an automatic reply email etc. If someone just suddenly stopped answering their phone for two weeks our automatic response would be thinking that they were missing. Personally, I am always checking my email throughout the day and if I didn’t I would miss a lot of important information regarding school and work. Even though it’s shocking the amount of time we spend looking at screens and using technology it’s really important. I do also agree that there are times when using a mobile device or social media is completely wrong such as in class, at work, or when you are in basically any social setting where you should be physically talking to the people around you.

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  29. Olga

    Paradoxically, modern technologies made distant closer and close more distant.
    When five years ago I found myself alone in a foreign country (which was US) for long 9 months, Skype became an invaluable means of communication between me, my family, and my friends: I could not only talk, but see them, and it gave that incredible feeling that the world is not that big.
    On the other hand, the same technologies have reverse effect as well. Families, sitting at the dining tables and looking into their phones instead of communicating with each other, or young people gathering to have a party, but ending up staring at their phones instead – these pictures prove the idea, that even when we are physically at the arm’s length from each other, in reality we are far away, and we are not able to share the charm of the present moment, the same emotions, the same conversation.

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  30. Brie Schachtel

    I am not surprised that kids my age spend 11.5 hours looking at screens a day. I am guilty of it and I feel it is pathetic and sad and a waste of time and yet I feel compelled to always look at my phone and text. I remember elementary school and middle school when we did not use cell phones and did not need to narrate every minute of the day to the world. Life seemed simpler just 10-12 years ago. So much has changed in that time- especially the development of cellphones and our attitudes on them. I find it rude when people text in classes too but it is hard not to look at our phones.

    Texting while driving is a serious issue. I read an article once (I forget where) where to prevent their child from texting while driving they gave them a manual car rather than automatic- can’t use your hands to text when they are needed to shift gears. I thought that was creative.

    If I spent less time on my phone I probably would get my homework done much faster but I do not think that is ever going to happen. I use my phone so much every single day that I have to carry around my charger with me.

    In regards to stress I am one of those people who can stress and get anxious easily and feel overwhelmed with everything going on that taking a break to ‘experience the world’ would make me more stressed because I could have spent that time being productive.

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  31. stacy05

    The use of technology is becoming more and more addicting. As much as I believe in the positive impact that it has in society and its potential use (read the news, gather information). Most of us spend our days walking around, or driving constantly looking on our cellphones. Causing us to often ignore the ones that are around us, it is for me a constant struggle trying to interact with my younger siblings without being constantly interrupted by their smartphones. They no longer want to talk about their day and share stories. It became a problem for me and us as a whole. I had to guide them by implementing new rules involving these electronic devices in order to help them find a balance.

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  32. croyal13

    I could not agree more! Although having an electronic device definitely comes in handy when you are waiting for a call back for an interview, your next calendar appointment to remind you to submit a project and other crucial things, turning off your cell phone for an hour a hour has its benefits! it is so nice not having to constantly be on call all of the time. I try to shit my cell phone off for at least a couple hours a day, even if its just while I do homework or am in class, to really focus on what i am doing at the moment. It is so easy to become distracted with snapchats, texts, emails and other notifications, that we are not enjoying who we are physically spending time with or what we are physically doing. At my job, the entire staff communicates by email or text, so it’s nice when I am not at work to not have to be constantly texting and answering phone calls

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  33. Morgan

    When I was younger I used to play outside before and after school everyday. Friends from down the block along with my sister and I would go for bike rides, play catch, draw sidewalk chalk cities that would eventually wash away in the rain or play endless hours of tag on the front lawn. Now that I am older I am saddened when I drive down my street at the end of the day and there is not a single child playing outside. I find it hard to believe that the millennial generation is really the generation dependent on technology, specifically social media.

    I place the blame on the older generations who have abandoned practical parenting for television sets. It is becoming more and more acceptable for children to be taught by cartoons and video games as opposed to parents and care givers.

    I admit that I am addicted to Twitter and fall victim to the belief that everyone in the world wants to read about what I’m doing in 140 characters or less, but at least my tweets are documenting a real life that I am living. My posts are about socializing with my friends, or playing sports or interacting with other human beings. Yes, I may subscribe to more than one social media network but at least I do something other than type and tweet. I am less nervous for the millennial generation and more concerned for those that follow.

    Who is teaching these kids to get out and play? To make friends? To live a life worth talking to a screen about? If the only way the kids are learning is from a screen how can we expect them to turn of the computer or the television and really live?

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  34. Kendra Sciortino

    There are times when I try to resist the urge to look at my phone. As sad as it is, I feel like I am going through withdrawals. Especially in college, the typical way people communicate or make plans is through their phones. The urge to be on my phone comes from the need to see what everyone else is doing and to make sure I am not missing out. There have been times where I have challenged myself to keep away from my screens (iPhone and laptop). There is a sense of relief not having to be connected. It can be freeing.

    I do think it is important to walk away from our screens every so often. I know in my life, there are certain expectations with my family when it comes to etiquette with our screens. There are absolutely no phones allowed at our family dinners. It is a time to catch up with each other. I think that this should be an expectation of any person we sit down and converse with. Having your phone out shows that your full attention is not with the person physically in front of you and that something else is more important. I think a big first step with dealing with our addictions to our screens would be to put down our phones or other devices when we are supposed to be spending time with someone of importance.

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  35. Alyssa O'Brien

    Technology seems to be an increasingly unlimited resource for the “Millennial Generation”. The age of smart phones has altered human contact. It seems as though people draw closer to their own group of friends in person, but have a broad range of friends on social media networks. This phenomena of “digital courage” so to speak occurs “in person” social situations. It is rare that one does not update or check their smart phone even while socializing.However socialization does not entirely encompass the ways Millennials use their technology. Millennials also use social media and their smart phones as resources for academia, organization, and current events. Young people seem to value their social media network and their technology extensively and are more engaged in technology than past generations.

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  36. Max N.

    There is no question that our world is changing. The level of our technology and the extent of our connectivity could only have been dreamed of as little as twenty or even ten years ago. There are countless benefits that these advances have brought about but there is no question that they have caused dysfunctions in our society. Much of this dysfunction though I feel comes mainly from it’s novelty. The internet and the portability of near infinite, easily accessible information are the way of the future. The awkwardness and confusion around these devices comes, I think, from the fact that we are still trying to make them fit into the framework and the mindset of a pre-internet age. It takes time for such a massive and profound change to settle and establish its place in the world. They are already accepted as everyday parts of human life but I think their full potential and acceptance is yet to be found further down the road.

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  37. Yeliz A

    I can not agree more with this blog post. I’ve written papers on this topic and have had numerous conversations with people discussing how technology and social media, although it has tremendous benefits, has caused us to be distant with others, as well ourselves. I believe we can utilize these forms of social media in effective ways within the professional world, however I feel we should lessen how we use it in our personal lives. I went away this summer to Turkey and stayed in the middle of nowhere in a small community of summer homes on a farm and it was truly one the most relaxing experiences of my life. I left my phone back home for two months and had no internet access for over three weeks. The days were long and extremely fulfilling. It’s sad to see two people on a lunch date or a family sitting at park with their eyes glued to their smartphones, both scenarios of which I have encountered. It truly saddens me to see that this is where modern day relationships are heading. I recently read this article from the Huffington Post and I recommend anyone who’s interested in this topic to take a look at it, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/katy-campbell/switch-off_b_3664261.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

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  38. Vanessa v

    Social media started off as a way to communicate with people near and far. However, computers and phones have almost made regular communication obsolete. People would rather talk online then in person. As well as blog/retweet pictures of fun things or every day life, Through sites like tumbler and Instagram. I think that we should all take breaks from screens ie: Computers, phones and t.v. This post makes me wonder about screens and how they effect people . If everyone agrees that we should spend less time on screens, why do we get so upset when they are taken away; in forms of punishment . Or when they are banned entirely from some settings like classrooms or airplanes .

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  39. twade1031

    I agree wholeheartedly. Not too long ago, I was one of those kids who were addicted to a screen. As part of “generation text”, the screens I own are integral parts of my life. My father was (and remains) adamant about teaching his children about the importance of getting away from the screens in our lives. I was really resistant to that idea because in today’s society, I know that I have to be one with my screens in order to participate in daily life. My mother expects a text message whenever I get out of the car, and even my teachers expect that I have access to a computer in order to comment on their blog posts. One thing that I didn’t realize was that though I need my screens to keep up with the pace of society, it is possible for me to take time for myself, where I can be disconnected from the world. After studying Buddhism, and since becoming a Buddhist, I have realized the importance of self-reflection, which is best done through meditation. Of course, one can not meditate and reflect inwardly while paying attention to all of the screens, because the screens connect us to the OUTSIDE world. Not only have I been able to get closer to my religion since looking away from my screens, but I have been able to spend more time with the people who are physically close to me. I’ve spent more time with my family, and have gotten to know people better from talking with them face to face.

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  40. Adriana

    I wonder if some of these “new” behavioral concerns we associate with modern technology are more deeply rooted in the loss of fundamental social values than on the proliferation of new techy-gadgets in our culture. Common courtesy, social etiquette, respect for others, should take care of issues such as “family at dinner with their attention focused on phones instead of personal interaction”. I don’t think it is “our screens that prevent us from focusing and reflecting on what and who is right in front of us” as Professor Morosoff articulates . It is the lack of the of respect and low civility standards that permits us to ignore another individual.

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  41. Nancy Haas

    In a world where human interaction has become a distant second to technological devices, I have tried to distance myself from the phenomenon of smart phones. I have also made the conscious decision to not be entirely attached to my “old school” cell phone. Being social and enjoying another person’s company has become lost and overtaken by the obsession and hysteria of constantly staring at a screen. A student can barely sit through a seminar without looking down at their lap and texting. I completely agree that it is rude and distracting, not only to the professor, but to fellow classmates. I understand that everyone has stressful and sometimes unbearable work schedules, but it has been very helpful to me to take a moment out of the day to sit and relax in silence, and listen to my own thoughts. Decompressing from the day can eliminate some stress and if others would substitute some of the time they spend on technological devices and replace it with quiet time, they could appreciate the silence and be at peace. Lets stop rushing through our day and enjoy the times we spend with others or just by ourselves.

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  42. Laurel Smith

    In a day and age where set schedules and deadlines are the driving force of people’s daily routines, it is very difficult to break free of the chains we have unconsciously tied ourselves to.
    Therefore, I believe the question is not whether disconnecting will have a positive effect, but whether or not is it possible for the human mind to stay disconnected. I believe this is partially the reason why this piece was entitled, “The Power of Stepping Back.” It is no easy task, being at ease without a screen in one’s face. We have been sculpted by advertisements and the astonishing capabilities of modern technology that it has now a necessity. With a click of a button we can display our entire month’s schedule, live stream our favorite team’s game, see the face of a loved one 10,000 miles away, or send a resume to ten different potential employers. Though it is a source of stress for many, it is also a way to simplify and cut corners, which is a relief for all. Because what it really all comes comes down to is that we are undeniably lazy creatures. Why make something more difficult than what it needs to be? Will powering down advance our creative abilities and allow us to think outside the box? Yes. But will the human population ever be able to do so? Probably not.

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  43. Sarah ElSayed

    I strongly believe that if my peers were to take even an hour out of their day to resist using technology for communication, that we’d be happier and better rounded people. In some ways, I feel as if my phone is an addiction; it isn’t so much that I’m waiting for a call/text/Tweet/Facebook notification, but rather that I need to make sure I’m not missing anything. I think we should worry more about the experiences that we’re missing in real life rather than what people are posting about their own experiences.

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  44. Ishan Kumar

    Smart phones have changed our lives in many ways. I believe that potential use of smart phone is important. How many of us use our smart phones to gather information or read news rather than uploading pics on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or simply playing games. I personally believe that smart phones have made our lives way easier they are a bliss for news craving people.

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  45. Maria Pascarella

    It is so important for us to be able to find a balance in our lives. It is easy to become caught up in scrolling through Facebook and Twitter at all times of the day, when we could be spending that time breathing and enjoying the moment. I sometimes set my phone to “Do not disturb”, and it is so refreshing not to feel the need to answer every text or tweet every 5 minutes. However, technology has many benefits! We are able to find information or contact a friend at any moment of the day, and that’s something I value when I’m far from home and my family. Balance is key!

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  46. Leia Schultz

    You are definitely not alone in your critique of electronic devices and their detriments in social situations. A modern topic of discussion is the effect of the use of these devices and how then the users are able (or not able) to interact socially with other human beings. As a young person who grew up in the age of many technological advances, cell phones and computers have dominated my social experiences for virtually my entire life. But those who spend more than 11 hours in front of the glare of electronics’ screen daily? That is shocking!

    Like Schwartz, I have had the luxury of spending time totally offline, and it is a sublime experience. True, I am not a person who is enamored with the use of my cellphone or computer (though these tools are invaluable to my life at most times), but I appreciated not being around them for a period of time. It was a deeply relaxing experience, and I was so involved in actively living without them that I hardly thought of the texts I was not receiving or the Facebook notifications I couldn’t read. I would recommend to anyone to take time out of the day to put down the electronics and enjoy time spent without the machines.

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  47. Kelly Cormier

    I completely agree with this post. As guilty as I am myself of being glued to my phone at almost all hours of the day, I often wish this technology did not exist. The fact that children aged 8-18 spend an average 11 1/2 hours focused on a screen is alarming, yet not surprising; it seems everywhere you look people are attached to their phones. Although I do believe that technology advances in recent years have had a great deal of positive impact on society, this generation spends far too much time connected to a device. I agree that stress and anxiety levels among this generation would be much less prevalent if we did not spend so much time focused on our screens; it is almost impossible not to become overwhelmed with so many things going on in our own daily lives while also giving so much attention to our devices. I remember a friend once told me about a study they read explaining why social media can tend to make users feel anxious or even depressed. Social media and technology makes it easy to not only compare our own lives and success to others, but also to be extremely distracted. I am absolutely certain that if I did not have access to my iphone or my lap top at all hours of the day, I would be significantly happier and more productive. We spend so much of our daily lives focused on a screen that often we cannot appreciate and fully take in what is going on around us.

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  48. Danie Zolezzi

    Life without devices is not only hard, it’s nearly impossible, to think about. I know I personally am addicted to my electronics because when I am unable to use them, I become extremely agitated. However, I would like to try to disconnect myself from the world every now and then. There have been multiple occasions where cutting myself off from society could have saved me some headaches.

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  49. Jaime Silano

    I agree with the message of this blog post completely. The growing dependence of our generation on technology is upsetting. I admit, like my peers, I am guilty of being far too involved with cellular communication (whether it be email, social media, etc.) Unfortunately, a huge part of my personal feeling of being “addicted” to technology is simply that “everyone else is doing it.” I know, that’s never an excuse- but it certainly must be considered. It is not only justified by society to live our lives glued to a laptop or smart phone, it’s actually become the norm (especially on a college campus in New York). Technology is definitely addictive, and it does not discriminate. Adults become attached to checking work emails on their smartphones, while teens burn daylight tweeting or playing Call of Duty. I agree that our anxiousness would ease if we made time to “experience the world and think beyond our screens.” As technology continues to progress, we need to work on maintaining a balance between technology and “real life.” The idea that generations after us will be so consumed by cyber-space, they will lose sight of the simple and natural experiences in life, is very upsetting.

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  50. rachelcarru2

    It literally does not surprise me that children from the age of 8-18 spend on average 11.5 hours in front of a screen everyday. Personally, I do not use my phone for long periods of time, however, if I were to piece together all of the brief moments I do use my phone/computer, I’m very sure it would amount to be very close to the national average. My mother does not allow cellphones at the dinner table and I highly agree with her rule. In a world where we rely socially, as well as professionally on our cellular devices, it is vital to have moments when one can live in the moment. With cellphones, the public is constantly living by guidelines that focus each individual only on the future. It is impossible to relax without reminders and messages popping up one’s cellphone. I believe that once we harness the most effective ways to use technology, we will escape its overbearing grasp.

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  51. Nathalie Salazar

    I agree with the article. I find that our obsession with technology and constant wanting to be in-the-know isolates us while connecting us to an intangible cyberworld. The screens in front of our faces distract us from the real people and environment that surrounds us. It’s ironic to think that as we gather real-time information about the world from our smartphones and television screens that in return we ignore the world that is right in front of us; even if that means tuning-out a conversation with a friend or not enjoying a beautiful day. Personally, I do not find it hard to step away from my smartphone because I haven’t grown an obsessive attachment to it, unlike most people nowadays. And honestly, I wouldn’t prefer otherwise. Yes, I find things out a little later than most people who have their eyes glued to a screen do, but is there really any harm in that? We live in a world engulfed by electronics and constant updating, so even if you do step away from the screen, the news will somehow make it to you. Therefore, I hugely promote the idea of taking a break from electronics for at least a portion of the day. You’ll find yourself seeing and experiencing things you might have missed when you were plugged in.

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  52. Kim Gray

    I absolutely agree with the author 100%. Electronic devices are very distracting and as a result it is destroying social interaction. At this point, technology will be replacing social interaction because people are finding it appropriate to take calls while at dinner, text, or check social networks while in a social settings. We spend most of our days buried in our cellphones. I for one am very guilty of constantly being on my phone and I do see that it does affect my relationships with my friends and family. We should take some time out of our day to just put that smart phone or Ipad down and just reflect and connect with people through oral tradition. The author cited that children as young as 8 years old indulge in their cell phones or smart devices 11 1/2 hours a day! That is a bit absurd considering that I wasn’t introduced to a cell phone or computer until I was 14 years old!

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  53. Nicole Lombardo

    I fully agree and I hate to admit but I fall into the statistic cited. I know for a fact I spend way to much time a day in front of a screen and a break is definitely needed at some point, but when can one be found? Most of the day is spent in front of a screen and most of that can’t be changed. For example, right now, as I read this blog all I see is irony. I am reading this blog post about how people today are too dependent on technology but technology is what makes this possible. Not only people but aspects of everyday life are dependent on technology, making the idea of a break from it all seem next to impossible.

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  54. Molly Eyassu

    I completely agree. I think its absolutely ridiculous how whenever I go to a concert or a night out with friends the majority of people around us (including my friends) are documenting everything they do for all of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to see instead of having a good time and just enjoying the moment. But, at the same time if I forget my phone when I go to class or work, I feel a sense of dissonance. Sadly, I think the concept of being “too wired in” won’t go away anytime soon; especially because social media has become an huge part of most people’s social life. One day, I would love to go off the grid but I’m not sure if I could actually go through with it.

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  55. Isabela Jacobsen

    I’m not going to lie, as soon as I wake up in the morning, I spend about ten minutes looking at my phone at all my social networks. It’s a disgusting habit, but it has turned into our modern world. I will always defend any kind of electronic device because I think it has more pros than cons. For example, my distant family live in a different country, and although I go to visit them, it’s hard to maintain contact when I live so far away! Social media gives me the power to communicate with them, and the power to have my family still be a part of my life. Of course, I do also agree with taking a step away from electronic devices because having too much of something is always a bad thing, including being on our phone. Taking that break from electronic devices is necessary in order to appreciate our surroundings instead of trying to capture those special moments in pictures or posts, but at the same time not being connected to the virtual world can really hurt us because life is evolving and we all need to adapt to what has become our modern day world. There are times, where it is inappropriate, sometimes even dangerous, to use electronic devices, and that’s why being on any device can also really impact us negatively. We need to find the balance!

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  56. Lauren Platt

    Although I am one of those people who feels like I need to be in constant contact with the world, I do completely agree that taking some time away from the screens that we essentially live in, would be a really refreshing experience. I never text and drive, and yell at anyone who I see doing it! Why risk your life or the life of anyone else? It can wait! I have come to realize that not only for when I am driving but for when I am in class, at the dinner table or just hanging out with friends in person!

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  57. Stephen Koenigsberg

    I’m totally with you on this, but I think the horse is out of the barn with the younger folks. Not sure what that means for our culture, but kids look to be pretty glued to their devices in every area of their lives. I refer to a blog you wrote maybe a year ago about a similar theme, and a young lady commented that she lost her iPhone while on vacation in Italy and didn’t know what to do with herself.

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  58. LaChele Prophet

    I agree that people do spend too much time on their phones. With games like candy crush and being able to use Facebook, etc. on your phone I have seen first hand how one can become consumed in their phone. I have a nephew, his parents are always on their phones and not paying enough attention to him when they should. He loves to read books and play but his parents don’t make time for him because they are in their phones. I am one who can step away from my phone and spend time with him and he knows that which is why he will come to me or his grandparents for attention because we give it. His parents are missing out on what a great kid he is. I mean they can’t put the phone down. Its in their hand or pocket 24/7. But on the other hand the cell phone is great for the GPS sending emails and having internet on hand to look up different types of info instead of carrying around a laptop because without those things I’d be lost, I especially need the GPS I can’t get anywhere without it.

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  59. Laura Schioppi

    I do and don’t agree. I agree that people spend too much time on their phones. Individuals must break free from this technology and enjoy the finer things in life. When you are with your friends, family or loved ones, we should pay attention to them 100%, instead of seeing ‘who won the baseball game tonight’ or ‘which celebrity couple broke up’. We should be more respectful to others by not using our cell phones all the time. Unfortunately, we do need our cell phones for important information. If we are lost, our cell phones are there to guide us. If we need weather advice, our cell phones are there to inform us if there is a snowstorm. It is sad to say that we are dependent on our cell phones in order to function in life. Not only are cell phones our simple way of communicating, but it has become another helpful hand to assist us in our daily activities.

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  60. Whitney Shepherd

    After reading the article I do agree about putting the devices away for a while and connecting with the world. As a college student I have grown up in the age where technology is so important in every day life and it is almost impossible to do work without it. There have been many times where I have been at family dinner and have looked around the table and instead of every one laughing and creating memories with each other, every one has their head down and eyes glued on their cell phone screens. The statistic you cited in your article about children spending 11 1/2 hours in front of a screen comes as no surprise to me at all. I have watched and baby-sat for many children over the years and there have been many parents who have told me to just let their children watch TV or play video games and everything will be fine. In households and in the work place technology can definitely take away a persons focus off of what is happening right outside their door or right in front of their face. I personally think that it is more important for children and young adults to put down the cell phones, tablets, and video games and turn off the TV every once in a while. There are so many things out in the world that the younger generations are losing out on and before they know it the world will have gone by way too fast.

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  61. Ariana Goldklang

    I completely agree with this. I consider myself one of those teens that is “addicted to the screen.” I look at my phone constantly and feel strange when I’m not on it. When I do go on vacations where I will not get service, the first few days feel almost empty to me. It feels weird to not have a phone in my hand. The fact that a small piece of technology has such an impact on teenagers isn’t healthy. Although I do believe that technology is definitely helpful today in learning information or keeping in contact with friends, the amount of time teenagers spend using it is unhealthy.

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  62. Joe Flanagan

    Certain things that you mentioned I agree with; however certain things that you mentioned I completely disagree with. I drive on the roads each and everyday to commute to school, and while I drive, the roads are plagued with distracted drivers. This distraction extends into all facets of life today, as you mentioned. When someone allows for technology to interrupt the human interactions around them, it creates a change of human interaction. This change allows for people to feel a sense of urgency and creates people to lapse judgement. So the idea of technology becoming a tool that distracts human interaction in every aspect of someones life is something I agree with.

    What I do not agree with is the positive change that can occur with the elimination of technology from ones life, for even a period of time during the day. If we take the time to eliminate the technology during the day, it will force us to catch up on the things that we missed while we were gone. I am not saying that we have to sit at our computers, or be attached to a piece of technology 24/7. What I am saying is that if we force ourselves to retract from all technology for more than 1 hour a day, the stress that we will feel to catch up will be to great. The constant fluctuation of stress is too unhealthy.

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  63. Bert Cunningham

    Agreed. As I posted last week, it pays to “forget the (smart) phone” from time to time. When walking around the city, look up and see the buildings, listen to the people on the street, be aware of what’s going on around you. At a ball game, pay attention to the play on the field, hear the crowd, see the people. At the ocean, really look at it and see the beauty around you. All of these experiences get more heightened. And, you’ll be amazed at the kinds of creative thoughts that will creep into your mind when it’s relaxed and enjoying something other than constantly checking for text and phone messages or emails on your “smartphone.” It’s also nice to just relax a bit too.

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  64. Cody Dano

    Like the author, I too agree that we, as a society, are too dependent on technology. Although I’m not proud of it, I can admit to being on my phone and laptop to much. This way of life has become such a habit that when I am away from my phone, I feel lost. I think that my generation will eventually have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture before we loose all face to face interaction.

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  65. Adria Marlowe

    I completely agree. The statistic you cited about children spending, on average, nearly 11 ½ hours in front of screens every day is startling. While I embrace the fact that my children are digital natives (using computers and smart boards every day in class, interacting with their friends online, and growing up with the ability to access information wherever they may be), I make sure that we devote a considerable amount of time “offline” – interacting as a family, reading books, playing outside, and experiencing life without the distraction of electronic devices. I am confident that our Sunday dinners together will have a far more positive impact on my children in the long run than hours spent on their tablets, DS or Wii. And, personally, I find that the time I spend with my family away from my iPhone and laptop is far more rewarding.

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