Suffering from information overload? Time to look up from that screen …

Do you feel like you are constantly on call these days? As though your day is dictated by the beep and ‘pling’ of messages and updates, pulling you this way and that?

Picture the scene: you’re in the middle of a conversation with a friend, and their phone beeps. They turn to their smartphone, saying “hmm, what was that,” as they pretend to listen to you. How does that make you feel?

Here’s another snapshot: It’s the end of the day, and you stand up from your desk feeling frazzled and wired. Yet when you tot up what you’ve done you realise it amounts to little more than fielding email demands, your attention pulled this way and that. You’ve been busy, and you’re stressed, but somehow you didn’t get round to the one thing you were meant to do today.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone …

People often ask why I wrote The Distraction Trap. It was because I started to notice that everywhere I went, people were staring down at screens. You’ve probably noticed them too, on trains and buses, or walking down the street veering in front of you. Perhaps they’re even in your own front room …

I started to question whether this constant connectedness was really healthy, or productive. Had we all really opted in to being on call? Was everything really so urgent?

Researching these issues, I found that the reasons for our behaviour around digital media are complex.

We check, and check, and check again. It’s a habit, verging in some cases on addiction. We check our smartphones every few minutes. We check our social media all the time because of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). We check our email because we feel like we should (though the expectation we put on ourselves is often far heavier than the expectation of others).

And while we adopt these new behaviours, other things go by the wayside; things like concentration and communicating in person.

In this blog on digital life, I’ll be exploring some of these issues. I’ll look at the huge pressures constant connectivity puts on us, the cost of distraction to productivity and wellbeing, and how to – whisper it – press the off button now and again and do a digital detox.

Can you be happy and disconnected? How much is too much when it comes to screen time for young people? And is it possible to spend a bit less of your life checking email?

These of the some of the questions I’ll be answering.

This is not about saying technology is bad. It’s about exploring how we choose to use technology, and understanding the pull digital devices have on us. It’s about being in control of how we fit digital devices in to our lives, rather than being ruled by them.

Long, long ago, in a past far away, there was a time Before Google (BG). Those of us old enough to remember it can vouch for the fact that there was also a time before mobiles – never mind smartphones. Somehow, the world turned.

Then, things changed. And fast.

In the 10 years between 1997 and 2007, huge swathes of our digital landscape as we know it were formed. We started emailing en masse, went mobile, and met Facebook and Twitter for the first time …

It’s strange to think that these changes were so relatively recent. We’ve embraced platform after platform, without even stopping to look up.

However, as anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by information overload knows, sometimes we go a little too far.

Now, it’s time to take a step back, and look around. This is a chance to regain a sense of digital balance, and to decide what a healthy, productive digital life means for you.

Try this today: Notice how often you check your smartphone