Getting the most out of our tech tools
Technology is a critical component of our world today. From communication and time management to manufacturing and healthcare, tech tools have an enormous impact on our lives. And for students at UA Grantham, it’s also what allows them to find success in school no matter where they are located.
There’s always a tradeoff, of course, and sometimes it feels like our technology is taking over our lives. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of technology today—and how we can make sure that we’re getting the most out of these tools without falling into some common traps.
Let’s start with the benefits that technology offers us. There is no question that we’re more connected than ever before, which means that most of our family, friends, coworkers, and loved ones are just a text, call, email, or video chat away. Stop and appreciate this for a moment! As difficult as being apart, for any reason, can be, we can still talk in real time with those who matter most.
That also means we don’t have to relinquish many of our routines, no matter what else is going on in the world. Technology allows us to keep working, communicating, going to school, shopping, going to doctor or therapy appointments, playing games, and staying aware of current events.
And it allows us to do so with even more ease: Google’s product suite, for instance, can help you write, format, present, calculate, collaborate, remind, and share all from one platform alone. The resources available today have made it possible to easily learn, share, and create in a truly global environment.
Technology allows students to watch lectures, participate in discussion groups, complete assignments, and earn their degrees from the comfort of their own homes. Online learning platforms make it possible to skip the commute to campus, eliminate the need for exams by mail, and improve efficiency.
The benefits of technology are genuinely incredible, but there can be too much of a good thing. Our hyperconnectivity means we may have difficulty disconnecting or creating space to unwind. That can lead to feelings of stress or exhaustion and make it harder to truly relax when we need that rest. If you could be working, studying, or catching up all the time, how do you know when to stop? Creating boundaries and promoting mindfulness are critical for giving ourselves the space and time our mental health deserves.
It's also important to be aware of the potential physical consequences from 24/7 connectivity. Eyestrain, hand or wrist pain, and sleep deprivation are common symptoms when spending so much time on our devices or in front of screens. Text neck, Blackberry thumb, and other overuse injuries are becoming increasingly more prevalent, which means it is critical to give your body a break and invest in your long-term health—particularly if you’re spending time on screens for work, entertainment, and school.
Going to school in a digital environment can exacerbate these trends, putting students at added risk for physical injuries even when it feels like a sedentary activity. Look for ways to optimize your study time, which can help you ensure you’re getting the most out of your screen time. UA Grantham offers a host of student support services, including tutoring, advising, and technology help, that can help you avoid spending too much extra time in virtual spaces.
Unfortunately, there are even more severe risks out there when so much of our time is spent in virtual spaces. The sense of anonymity we have online, or of feeling slightly removed from the situation when behind a keyboard, can lead to saying things we wouldn’t ordinarily say in a face-to-face situation. Coupled with the ability to share information in record time, this can quickly create uncomfortable and even dangerous situations. It’s important to give yourself mindful space away from virtual environments (and time to process painful feelings when they arise).
The spread of misinformation or outright lies, the prevalence of bullying and cyber attacks, and other unpleasantries are all common side effects of our cyberspace—and they can lead to anxiety, depression, addiction, and other mental health disorders. Social media alone has had a dramatic impact on feelings of self-worth, success, and inclusion and belonging, and those feelings carry into our real worlds. Be cautious about what you consume and avoid taking every piece of information you see at face value.
As they say, everything in moderation. There are some truly wonderful tools out there, and you don’t have to delete your accounts or throw your computer out the window in order to have a positive relationship with technology. All you really need is to set some healthy boundaries!
Try charging your phone outside the bedroom so it’s not the first thing you look at in the morning. Practice turning off your devices during mealtimes or while exercising. Set time limits for your computer, tablet, or TV. Turn off notifications on your mobile tech so you’re less likely to pick it up as often. Create clear boundaries for when you plan to study and when it’s time to take a break. Consider whether there are some analog tools that help you learn better than their online counterparts, such as taking handwritten notes rather than typing them. Experiment and see what works—and feels—best for you.
Most importantly, check in with yourself regularly to see how you’re feeling. Take a moment to ask yourself: Am I really benefiting from using this piece of technology? Am I using this tool mindfully and how it was intended, or has it taken on a life of its own? Am I getting more out of it than I’m spending—in time, money, or energy? If you’re getting your online degree at UA Grantham, take advantage of your dedicated student advisor’s one-on-one support. They will help you time manage your technology and focus to meet your personal goals.