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Debbie Woodbury Headshot

Are You Mindlessly Addicted to Technology?

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I have to start out by saying that I love technology. I'm old enough to remember the huge black-and-white televisions and rotary telephones of my youth. Today's gadgets -- smart phones, tablets, MP3 players, computers and flat-screen televisions -- are more useful, productive and a lot more fun.

They are also a lot more addictive. Remember the yoga teacher who shot a dirty look at a student who wouldn't stop fiddling with her cellphone in the middle of class? Amazingly, the teacher was fired after the student complained. Really? So, not only is the student so addicted to her phone that she can't enjoy an hour of uninterrupted yoga, but her addiction is actually encouraged.

I get the addiction. I succumb to it myself, because it's human. That's why we have to learn to use the technology mindfully and not buy into the social construct that it's okay to be mindless, rude and disconnected from the real world as long as we use the "I'm busy" excuse.

I take a "stress management yoga" class twice a week and it's lovely. The teacher begins class by turning off the overhead lights. With only the light of her small lamp at the front of the room, I immediately go into a relaxed state.

One day, a young woman came into the class. I doubt she was over the age of 21. She laid out her mat close to mine, piling her stuff -- shoes, water bottle, cellphone -- next to her mat. As soon as class started, so did the texting. Do you know what the glare of a cellphone's light looks like in a dark room? It's a beacon of light that bores a hole into your head.

I didn't want to complain, because I was supposed to be relaxed and blissfully unaware of outside annoyances, but I was losing the fight. I silently cheered when the teacher finally told her, "We don't do that in here." She put the phone down, but a few minutes later picked it up and checked it again. I don't know what she was checking, but I doubt it was of national importance. She left when class was over and never came back.

Which reminds me of an ancient memory, long before cellphones even existed. I was a brand-new lawyer working for a small firm. The other associate was a chain smoker. In fact, I remember she had a habit of lighting up her next cigarette before she actually finished the one in her hand. I honestly don't know how she got anything else done.

One day, we had to go to the law library to do research. Panic ensued when she realized smoking wasn't allowed in the library. She finally accepted the fact that there was no choice, took a deep breath, rushed into the library, worked in a frenzy for a few minutes until she couldn't stand it anymore, and rushed back out for a smoke. And she did this all day long.

Watching her struggle with her addiction was illuminating. I realized how free I was to come and go as I pleased, while she ran back and forth as if the library's air was poisonous. She obviously loved her cigarettes, just as we love our technology, but that love came at a price.

When I get too plugged in, I'm going to remember my long-ago colleague. If I've learned anything from cancer, I've learned to be more aware and appreciative of all aspects of life. I've also learned that silence is a necessity and a treasure that I need to make time for each day.

Do you find yourself mindlessly addicted to technology? What do you do to try to break out of addictive technology usage? Let me know below in the comments and on my Facebook page (which is another piece of technology I love a bit too much).

For more by Debbie Woodbury, click here.

For more on unplugging and recharging, click here.

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