Do you ever feel like technology that is supposed to make our lives convenient is actually doing the exact opposite? Do you feel like all of those apps, plugins, Chrome extensions, programs, and software meant to alleviate stress are actually adding to our stress?

I know where you think this is going. You’re thinking this is another one of those Internet articles preaching the need for a digital detox; a suggestion to “unplug” for one week. And phrases like “we are more connected than ever, but yet, incredibly disconnected” and “social media is just a facade for what is really going on” are surely going to find their way into this article.

But that is not what this is about.

Technology Induced Stress

This is indeed my observation about how technology is making things a bit stressful in my life, but it’s not about the devices.

From trains to cars; manual hand tools to powered tools; telephones being placed in our homes, mounted in our cars and now in our pockets, there has always been evolving technology, and there have always been critics of that evolution.

My realization of late is that we’ve been far too critical about the hardware. That our devices, the ones in our hand, on our desk, mounted on our walls and installed in our cars are taking over our lives. Critics have claimed that the unlimited access to information creates some type of negative effect.

But a research group is proving otherwise. Pew Research Center surveyed 1,801 adults, asking them what extent they felt their lives were stressful. While Pew’s previous studies showed that the awareness of stressful events in the lives of others (i.e., knowing that a friend lost their job or hearing about a family member’s spouse passing away) caused stress in their subjects, there was an unknown if stress was tied to frequent digital technology use.

The survey unveiled these major findings:

  • Overall, frequent internet and social media users do not have higher levels of stress. In fact, for women, the opposite is true for at least some digital technologies. Holding other factors constant, women who use Twitter, email and cell phone picture sharing report lower levels of stress.
  • At the same time, the data show there are circumstances under which the social use of digital technology increases awareness of stressful events in the lives of others. Especially for women, this greater awareness tied to higher levels of stress and it has been called “the cost of caring.”

Stress is not associated with the frequency of people’s technology use, or even how many friends users have on social media platforms. But there is one way that people’s use of digital technology can be linked to stress: Those users who feel more stress are those whose use of digital tech is tied to higher levels of awareness of stressful events in others’ lives. This finding about “the cost of caring” adds to the evidence that stress is contagious.

In a nutshell, the idea that the phone itself is making you a stress ball is, according to Pew Research Center, hogwash.

The Stress of Choice Overload

I agree, it’s not the hardware, and it’s not the content on our social media feeds.

It’s the software that delivers the content to us. There is TOO MUCH of it.

I recently jumped the Apple ship and started using a Samsung Galaxy S8. This phone has two voice assistants; Bixby and Google. Which one do I use? I’ve spent far too much time researching “Bixby vs. Google” articles.

Remember the days of one-touch speed dial on a phone? Well, the S8 has at least four different ways, that I have found so far, to assign a contact as a “favorite” so I can call them with minimal effort. Really? There are four different ways to program this function? Okay, which one works the best?

There are Google Hangouts and Google Duo (both of which provide video calling service). So what’s the difference and which one do I use?

Oh and speaking of video calling, I can also do that with my Amazon Echo Show, but I use the Amazon Alexa app to do that. But how?

And let’s talk a little bit more about Alexa and voice controlled devices like Google Home, Echo Dot, and the forthcoming Apple Homepod. These things can make life easier, but you need to know how to use them and how to talk to them.

I’ve seen people cuss out Siri, literally getting angry at a robot. Talk about stress.

Even going the way of cord cutting (from cable) is stressful. YouTube TV or Hulu? Roku or Netflix? They all have essentially the same channels, but it’s their “exclusive” content that is the breaking point. Do I want to watch “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix or “The Mindy Project” on Hulu?

Lastly, and it’s probably the best example of counterproductivity … all of the productivity apps. There must be 100 different calendars and another 100 different “to-do” apps. They have cute names like Things, Any.do, and Wunderlist. I just want one perfect one.

The Desire for a Digital Declutter

And that’s the problem. It really was much easier when we just had a spiral day planner that had a pre-dated calendar and a page for your to do’s. You opened up to the bookmarked “today” page and just started writing down what you had to do.

It was easier when playing a song meant turning on a record player, placing the needed on the song you wanted to listen to or powering up the CD player and pushing play. Today we turn on a phone, open an app, search for the song and then finally push play.

Technology is amazing. And I am admittedly addicted to all of the things that are being created to make life easier and simpler. But still part of me wants to step back and figure out a way digitally declutter.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here watching another YouTube video on how to call my wife with the minimum number of taps on my new phone … and also figuring out which of the four ways available will work the best.

Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

Feeling technology induced stress? What if it isn't the increased presence of technology that's causing it, but instead the choice overload you're facing?

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