These days, with everybody having a cellphone or mobile device that can connect to the Internet, we are constantly bombarded with stimuli demanding our attention. When we look at our cellphones, our inboxes are filed with text messages from family and friends, and even our bosses, each of which demands that we reply to it now.
Even when we are socializing, we are constantly texting or checking our devices, and this is hurting our personal relationships. We are basically overwhelmed by all these digital stimuli and it is threatening to take over our lives and even be detrimental to our overall happiness.
In fact, we are spending so much time on our digital devices that researchers have actually come up with a name for this condition – “digital distraction”. Digital distractions are not just harmful to our personal lives; they can also be actively dangerous. According to a 2010 survey by Leger Marketing, nearly three out of four drivers in Canada admitted that they were driving while distracted, which includes talking on a cellphone or texting. A 2010 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that drivers who were talking on a cellphone, even a hands-free one, were four times more likely to be involved in a traffic collision, and 23 times more likely if they were texting.
Cellphones have also caused our work lives to intrude into what should be our personal time to spend with family and friends or pursue other interests. In fact, some labor experts in Toronto have decried “after-work emails”, which are increasingly being recognized as a type of unpaid overtime for workers, as a “national epidemic’’ in Canada. And this type of unpaid work affects a range of workers, who are expected by their companies to be constantly on call, even on weekends or after office hours.
In order to regain our work-life balance, we have to reduce the amount of digital distractions we expose ourselves to. We have to discipline ourselves to either turn off our digital devices when we are at home or to only use them at strictly designated hours. If there is a concern over unpaid overtime, you can speak to the HR department or directly to your superior, or to your Toronto accountant, or in the worst-case scenario, to the provincial labor board.
Ultimately, it is up to us to regain the balance in our lives by recognizing how mobile devices have taken them over and deciding to do something about it.