Ginni Saraswati, founder of Ginni Media, can certainly speak to the topic of technology fatigue. Her creative production team is scattered around the globe. Email, Slack, Asana, Instagram, and Zoom calls allow her staff to collaborate creatively across time zones.
But, the power of technology comes at a price. And that price is usually technology fatigue. As thousands join the remote workforce, Saraswati shares her thoughts on harnessing the power of technology without allowing it to gain control.
What is technology fatigue?
Technology fatigue is the feeling of overload experienced when a person’s emotional, sensory, and physical space is interrupted by technology. The relationships people establish with their technology can prove extremely useful yet toxic at the same time. Whether it is calling, beeping, or flashing, the urge to respond is nearly irresistible and creates a sense of urgency. Technology demands our attention and people feel obligated to be available.
Remote work and technology fatigue
Saraswati produces a podcast hosted by Robert Plotkin called Technology for Mindfulness with the tagline “Take charge of your tech and take back your life.” This was produced long before the condition termed technology fatigue hit the media. The fatigue has been around for a while, but it grows more prominent as each indispensable device or app hits the market.
Over the last decades, technology has become more and more entangled with daily life. Going a day without using technology for work, school, or even pleasure, is virtually inconceivable. Recently, people are noticing the tech designed to make their lives easier actually comes with its own type of fatigue.
Covid-19 arrived just as technology was ready to offer a solution to months of quarantine. People flocked from brick-and-mortar offices to join the remote workforce. “When the pandemic hit, technology was virtually the only thing outside of our bubble that was keeping us connected to our work, friends and family from home,” Saraswati remembers. “It was business as usual for Ginni Media, but for so many other people, their home space instantly became their workspace, too. Now there was no separation. The pandemic has highlighted the need for boundaries.”
Feelings of anxiety and stress caused by technology fatigue
Technology fatigue manifests with a variety of symptoms, but the most common is anxiety. Ironically, tech users often experience high levels of stress when apart from their computers and devices. This fear has been given the acronym FOMO (fear of missing out).
Socially, many experience an unrelenting need to check texts, Facebook alerts, Instagram messages, or tweets. In regards to their jobs, people can feel pressure to be accessible at any time through multiple avenues of communication. Checking inboxes and responding to texts leads to a feeling of always having something that needs to be done. Unfortunately, the chore of being in constant contact can be a huge distraction from workplace tasks and personal goals.
“There are physical ramifications from technology fatigue,” Saraswati says, “but in my experience, anxiety is the biggest symptom. That feeling that I’m missing out on something and need to respond straight away leads to an overall problem of being distracted. Distraction causes us to fall behind and become overwhelmed. The cure for overwhelmed is focus.”
How to minimize the effects of technology fatigue
Saraswati offers three suggestions to minimize distractions from technology and increase focus. She advises tech users to:
- Set boundaries around their technology use time
- Actively disconnect from technology
- Use Do Not Disturb features to mute notifications while doing focused work
These suggestions don’t revolve around eliminating tech from daily life but rather being mindful of its impact.
The quantity of time people engage with technology is going to vary based on lifestyle. The key is less about decreasing time and more about increasing mindfulness.
“As an entrepreneur and CEO who works remotely from home, I’m use all sorts devices daily,” admits Saraswati. “I’m on my computer and cell phone during the workday. I listen to podcasts while I workout and I wind down watching Netflix or Apple TV. Technology is a big part of my life. However, I practice mindfulness and discipline regarding when I invite that technology into my space and allow it to invite me into its space. With boundaries like this in place, I don’t feel that technology is controlling me.”
How to minimize technology fatigue by setting boundaries
Saraswati sets the notifications on her phone to “Do not disturb” during most of her workday. Setting boundaries on notifications allows her to focus on her work.
“My calendar is set, sometimes weeks in advance, so I’m very intentional about how I use my time,” Saraswati says. “I only check notifications if I have a break or if I want to sit and talk to someone. In this way, I’ve taken charge of when I’m allowing technology to come into my space. It’s like a closed office door.”
It can also be beneficial to limit notifications during personal time. Notification-free times of day allow people to devote attention to family, friends, and hobbies. Failing to set these boundaries leads to an unhealthy disruption of personal space.
In recent years, technology has evolved to become more and more attention-grabbing. Saraswati is aware of the rabbit hole many tech users go down when checking notifications. “You click on one notification, and you can end up scrolling for hours. If you’re not setting time for the things you want to do, you’re living on someone else’s schedule. That’s why it’s so important to have boundaries in place.”
How to minimize technology fatigue by disconnecting from technology
It’s essential to block out technology-free time. This involves setting aside parts of the day for being entirely removed from devices and computers.
“I’ll leave the phone at home and go for a walk or lock it away when I’m working out,” Saraswati remarks. Moments like these allow people to disconnect from tech and connect with themselves, others, and the world around them.
How to minimize technology fatigue by putting cell phones to bed
Saraswati’s final advice to minimize technology fatigue is to put cell phones to bed each night before going to sleep. Notifications should be turned off, and phones should be inaccessible from the bed.
Sleep directly impacts productivity and mood during the day. If mindful boundaries are not set, technology has the power to interrupt that sleep at any time. “Some people put their phones in a drawer or another room,” comments Saraswati. “I put mine right underneath my dresser on the other side of my bed where it can charge on a wall outlet. This way, I have that separation from my phone. I’m setting boundaries around when I can use the phone and when I can allow notifications to interrupt me. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I’m ready to go.”
Technology fatigue is a real and growing problem with the power to affect health, relationships, and productivity. Fortunately, mindfully setting boundaries and disconnecting from technology for periods of time can put tech users back in control. For more information, readers can visit Saraswati’s website and follow her on Instagram and Youtube.
Published November 18th, 2021