Connectivity: Enabling Technology Without Disabling Your Family

ConnectivityConnectivity Defined-

The state or quality of being connected, the ability to link and to communicate with others.

If connectivity only meant that we could get a good wifi signal then life would be so much easier. Connectivity however involves the ability to be connected, to link, and understand and communicate with those around us. And sadly, that is much easier sometimes when we don’t have a good wifi connection. So how do we learn to use technology without disabling our ability to connect to our family and others? Here are four principles to teach our families to keep in mind.

 Think Magnifying Lens Not Boogey Man

Technology is your friend, not your enemy. Many would love to blame technology for all of the problems in their life. From their over eating as they sit in front of technology to their inability to do their homework because of the constant barrage of their never ending updates, text messages and phone calls. From self-esteem, to sleep habits, technology is the new version of the boogey man. Is it a blessing or a curse? It really just depends on who you talk to.

Perhaps a healthier way of seeing technology would be as a magnifying glass instead of the boogey man. Technology is not the cause of your problems but simply a magnifying lens that exposes your biggest blemishes and weaknesses. For example: If you can’t put your phone down when you’re out to dinner with friends or family, then perhaps your problem isn’t your phone but instead, it’s your selfishness. If you tend to complain about your addiction to watching Netflix, your problem might have more to do with a lack of will power than a media provider. In the end, technology is showing us all what we need to improve in our lives. So, “When are you going to stop swatting at the flies and go and patch the screen”?

Get Better Not Busy

My mother and grandmother used to believe that I just needed to be busy to stay out of trouble. Today however, busyness is really not the answer, it’s just a common symptom of living in the information age. From returning emails or text messages, to managing our social media, answering phone calls, keeping up on the latest news, or just following our favorite media and entertainment offerings, we are plenty busy. With a never ending list of possibilities perhaps a better goal than staying busy is actually the goal of getting better. It’s about improvement, growth and becoming the type of person we truly could be proud of.   The influx of technology is a powerful tool to facilitate this high level of growth and if we’re not careful it can also become our biggest vice. High school rugby coach Larry Gelwix who had an amazing 419 win, 10 loss record, used to always ask his boys at the end of every practice, “Were you changed or where you just entertained?” Change is a choice and a tough one at that. Entertainment is much easier to attain and demands so much less from us. If we want to maximize the benefits of technology than change must be our motto, not entertain me.

Start a discussion with your childrens about whether their day to day actually changed them for the better, or only entertained them. See what happens the minute, that change becomes a goal over fun.

 Maximize the Micro Moments

Research from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Author of Love 2.0: Creating Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection, describes the power of the “Micro connections,” or moments of connection that are so important in our communication. Dr. Fredrickson’s research suggests that love of another is not some constant all ecompassing emotion we feel throughout the day. Instead it’s a small “micro moment” where we share a caring feeling or emotion. These moments can come through sharing a smile, or expressing concern, a short note, an empathic response, or even a simple sharing of a story. In the end these micro moments improve emotional resilience, boost the immune system, and reduce susceptibility to depression and anxiety. The micro moments are a major driver of health and can be dramatically improved by simply using technology as a delivery mechanism.

What if we could turn our media use from being a source of solo or personal gratification and escape and instead rewire our view of technology as a tool to foster more connection and “micro moments” with others. Perhaps we could follow the prompting and call the person immediately that we were thinking about. Or make sure that we truly do contact the people and wish them a sincere happy birthday on Facebook. By turning our technology from a selfish endeavor to a self less endeavor we’ll begin to truly change our own lives and relationships.

We tend to focus on the tangibles versus intangibles

 Power Up Your Will

The final area we need to improve if we want to make sure that our technology is not going to break us is powering up our own will power. Today’s children are getting softer and even weaker with every new app they discover. The antidote to this softening is simply doing difficult things. Sticktuitiveness is what some old timers would have called it. I call it willpower. The power to do what is difficult, because it’s important or valuable to me. Will power is the difference between the person that becomes a difference in their own world.

In a radio interview with an expert on artificial intelligence, I asked if there will be a day mirroring the Terminator movies where the robots eventually turn on their creators and eliminate humans from the earth. He reassured me, that for a variety of reasons, that is not a very likely scenario. One reason he offered was simply because one of the most difficult things to replicate is the basic concept of independent will or will power. He reassured me that computers are really good at following an algorithm or protocol. But to get it to actually have its own will or mind, its own ability to turn itself on and to actually express or demonstrate independent passion, drive or will has not ever been demonstrated. So if will power is not likely to be created with our living robots, than a more likely scenario won’t be that the robots take over the humans. Maybe more likely is that the humans give up their power to the robots. We’ve already seen this happening with a study according to Microsoft showing that our attention span has shrunk to 8 seconds for humans, sadly just one second shorter than gold fish. We also see stories out of China where people are dying from binge video gaming or where medical facilities are being opened for people addicted to video gaming.

In order to grow our will power back we need to make sure that our kids are learning to do hard things. I suggest we use a four by four to fix the problem. I’m not suggesting you take them behind the shed, but instead challenge your family to each perform 4 difficult things a day by 4pm in the afternoon. Have your kids check in every day on their accomplishments during dinner and set goals as a family to celebrate the successes. Discuss the lessons that are coming from doing difficult things.

In the end will power grows when we prove to ourselves that we have the character to do the hard thing. Don’t let your technology impede you willingness to try difficult things but instead use it to enhance your ability to get more tough stuff done.

Dr. Matt Townsend's Web Site