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Know the Importance of Unplugging from Technology and how to do it

Story by Toby Welch.

The farming industry in Canada comes with its own set of technological challenges. We deal with cell phones and computers, of course, but we also have the added factor of devices like GPS systems in machinery, mapping technology, auto-steered tractors, data-gathering drones, fan systems, pest-fighting apps, and the like.

Dr. Larry D. Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming its Hold On Us, among other books, shares what he sees as reality these days, "The modern family is isolated, with each person wrapped in his or her own "techno-cocoon." Just take a look at how the typical family looks at the end of the day... Mom is preparing dinner while checking her cell phone. One child is playing games on his computer, another is on her own cell phone, and the youngest is playing X-box. Dad comes home from work and goes immediately to his computer. And the kids seem to know so much more about computer technology. In many homes, we are seeing a loss of communication and a major shift in the power balance in the family."

How do you know if you are suffering from technostress? Your brain will feel overloaded. You are unable to think clearly, and you forget things. You may experience memory loss. Feelings of powerlessness and irritability can occur. All this can lead to headaches, backaches, and stomach upset. Your sleep is not restful as your brain is overstimulated. Anxiety disorders and depression may arise.

Janet Mackow has lived on a family farm her entire adult life. She has seen farming go from zero-tech to high-tech machinery and gadgetry. That can lead to frustration and feelings of overload for many farmers. Mackow observes, "So much of the equipment is getting so sophisticated with technology that farmers can't always fix. For example, computers on a combine will just shut off. Sometimes it seems like the technology has gone a bit too far."

Professor John Mueller, Retired, Professor Emeritus with the Werklund Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, explains the ramifications of the abundance of technology, "Modern technology has proliferated our lives. Some seem to thrive on the buzz, at least for a while, whereas others either flounder outright or cope but feel frazzled rather than proud of increased productivity. Some of us survive for a while, but more and more of us are wondering where it will all end."

All this technology has a huge impact on our lives, health, and families. So, what can we do to curb technology's effects on our lives? Give some of these strategies a try:

  • Slow down. Take frequent breaks.

  • Only check your email at preset times.

  • Restrict the time spent on laptops and other devices.

  • Turn off notifications on your phone so it doesn't ping constantly.

  • Get rid of all but your most necessary apps.

  • Have conversations in person whenever possible instead of a phone call, email, or text.

  • Don't answer the phone just because it rings - that is what voicemail is for.

  • Make a conscious effort to make your home a haven from massive amounts of technology.

  • Have meals around the table, not the television, and allow no tech while eating.

  • Adopt a digital blackout period, cutting off all electronic use an hour before bed.

  • Consider making your bedroom a tech-free zone.

  • Make tech-free time with your family a priority.

  • Carve out no-technology times, starting with an hour here and there and working your way up to a day and then an entire vacation.

  • Connect with actual people.

With all the technology integrated into the farm life, it's not surprising that Martin Carrier, a farm kid who is now a product manager for Kubota Canada, likened modern-day tractors to "powerful computers on wheels" in a recent Industry and Business article.

Here are some additional tips from Professor Mueller:

  • Stop trying to multi-task and work 24/7. Humans are not good at it. Your computer can go all day, every day, but you can't, so don't even try. Resting is not loafing - it's recharging.

  • Check your email and voicemail intermittently rather than constantly, following the manner of snail mail. If you take a break to reenergize, you will be more efficient when you resume work, and the messages will still be there.

  • Think twice before upgrading hardware or software. If it isn't broken, leave it alone.

  • Get a low-tech hobby.

  • Laugh more.

Most people greatly underestimate the amount of time they're connected. Consider documenting your usage so you can get an accurate picture of where you fall. Time spent being connected is time not spent doing something else. Consider what is most important in your life and what makes you happy.

Mackow shares more tech frustrations, "A lot of us farmers have very slow internet or none at all. And a lot of areas are without cell phone coverage (although hills have a lot to do with that.) And GPS systems are great. They almost drive themselves, but they only say where to go, not if a field is wet. You can easily find yourself stuck or running over things. Or the systems stop working altogether."

As farms continue to get more and more high-tech, the need to avoid technology overload will become even greater. With a few changes, you can control the technology in your life, not the other way around.

Toby Welch is a freelance writer based in Airdrie, Alberta. Her fondest childhood memories include naming farm animals, getting poked by straw bales, and the feeling of warmth in her hand when collecting eggs.