Is modern technology causing your depression? It's possible.
Log off. Reboot.
Does your artificially lit, windowless work cubicle feel like a suffocating vortex from which you will never escape? Do you feel trapped and alone in your home office? Are you unable to drag yourself away from the glow of your personal laptop?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, congratulations! You may be suffering from a new, modern day affliction called Nature Deficit.
Let there be (natural) light
According to a Newsweek article by Dr. Andrew Weil, the author of the book "Spontaneous Happiness," many people in the modern age are suffering from Nature Deficit. We spend so much time indoors, immersing ourselves almost obsessively in technology that we are actually putting ourselves at risk for depression.
This Nature Deficit doesn't only apply to modern work spaces. It is also rampant at home: Parents burying their faces in their smartphone Facebook app; Children playing video games all day, instead of going outside to play.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a computer screen?
Did you know?
Facebook recently openly admitted to experimenting on more than 70,000 users by manipulating their news feeds to gauge the effect on their emotions. Read more.
Dark days ahead
The consequences of our technology obsession range from an increase in obesity to outright murder. In late 2010, a mother in Jacksonville, Fla. plead guilty to shaking her infant to death because the child interrupted her game of Farmville.
When society starts taking better care of its virtual internet farms than its living, breathing inhabitants, I think it's safe to say there's a problem. Perhaps, our dependence on modern technology has gone too far (I realize this is said with a slight tinge of hypocrisy since I'm sitting in front of a computer as I write this).
Call in Sick to Technology
In the interest of our health, I think it's time that we assess the amount of time we spend absorbed in a virtual life. I'm not proposing we abandon modern technology altogether or go as far as becoming Amish. But let us at least take a step back. Take a break. Take a walk.
Since scientific studies show modern technology is making us sick, why not "call in sick" to modern technology? Once a week, turn off your smartphone - unplug your computer - show the 21st Century it isn't the boss of you.
You would call in sick to work if you had a nasty flu bug, right? (On the other hand, if you're calling in sick to work because you hate your job, it might be time to look for a new one. Here's a tongue-in-cheek list of Top 5 signs you are ready for a change).
You know it isn't impossible to "call in sick" to technology. If you're in your 30s or older, you can probably remember the time before the internet. A time when conversations happened in person, not via a text message.
There was eye contact. Maybe even a hug. Crazy how that worked.
You may be a pro at walking while chewing gum. Walking while looking at your smartphone, on the other hand, is a dangerous habit.
Recent studies show show it can even lead to death (i.e. being hit by a car or train). In fact, one woman in Australia actually walked off a pier while Facebooking on her mobile phone.
While many states have failed, Idaho succeeded in passing a bill to make texting in a crosswalk illegal.
Did you know?
Writer Mark Glaser calls his weekly sabbatical from the digital world a "Technology Sabbath," an homage to the traditional Jewish Sabbath. And, as he writes in an article for the PBS publication Media Shift, he's not alone:
"The concept of a 'Technology Sabbath' is becoming more widespread, both in religious circles and among bloggers and media people who are overwhelmed with the always-on nature of the broadband Internet and smartphones ... instant messaging, social networking and services such as Twitter..."
I don't doubt that you will miss your favorite smartphone app at first, but I bet once you get busy doing something other than playing Angry Birds, Candy Crush or Farmville for hours on end, you won't even miss it. You may even end up deleting the app to free up some space on your phone for some other mindless diversion ... like Words With Friends.
Yeah, not exactly the point.
However, there are lots of things you can do that don't involve technology:
- Grab coffee with a friend
- Give your kid a piggyback ride
- Do some gardening
- Draw a picture
- Cook a meal
- Go swimming
- Take a road trip
- Play softball at the park
- Start a band
- Divert your Angry Birds obsession into reenacting your favorite scenes, complete with birds, pigs, blocks and catapult
Weil makes a valid point when he says modern technology is a fertile ground for a low mood (especially if you are prone to depression).
So log off and "reboot" every now and then for the sake of your own health and that of your family. It's a brave new world out there. And the possibilities for life are endless.