Many of us are enjoying a love affair with our tech gadgets and it's not an uncommon sight to see couples in cafes gazing at their screens instead of into each other's eyes.
There are countless studies about the impact of a digital tech addiction but, for most of us, it's easier to carry on and ignore statistics about increased stress levels, anxiety and exhaustion. According to Microsoft, the human attention span shortened from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013.
Dr Jenny Brockis told HuffPost Australia our desire to be connected at all times means that every ping, tweet and text rewards us with a little extra dopamine, the neurotransmitter involved in the brains reward circuitry that motivates us to learn and repeat the behaviour over and over again.
"Integrating with our technology for extended periods of time -- the average now being 10.5 hours per day (including up to three of those hours being spent on our smartphones) leads to a hyperstimulated brain that is always 'on'," Brockis said.
"This is contributing to higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and poor sleep patterns. It's hard to think straight or do good work when your brain is exhausted."
Brockis said the key to working safely with our technology is in controlling how much and when we interact with it.
"This begins with greater awareness of just how easy it is to spend too much time online to the detriment of our relationships, health and wellbeing," Brockis said.
"Then it comes down to the conscious choice, 'Do I really need to be looking at my smartphone right now?', 'Do I really to be online when having dinner with friends, walking the dog or travelling to work?'"
So what's around the corner for technology? Are we likely to be using it more or less than we are today?
Future trends forecaster Michelle Newton told HuffPost Australia human advancement will be reliant on technology in many ways.
"The global market indicates that we're likely to be more reliant on technology. The S&P 500 includes tech stalwarts like Apple and Facebook is up 19 per cent this year making it the best performing sector of the index," Newton said.
"Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, would argue that we are going to be symbiotic with technology, his neural lace sees us literally connected to technology via a 'direct cortical interface' to enhance our human capability."
Brockis' tips for managing your technology
- Set boundaries: at work this might mean agreeing to switch off work email or your phone at a set time and to not turn it back on until a set time next day. At home this might mean agreeing to set limits on how much time is spent on video games, Netflix, Facebook or Instagram;
- Make meal times a technology-free zone (at home and work);
- Choose to switch off all technology during family time;
- Switch off all notifications. This helps to reduce the temptation to 'just check' and fear of missing out (FOMO);
- Keep technology out of the bedroom. Keep the bedroom for sleeping and sex only. That means no TV, iPad or phone;
- Take a regular technology break at some point during the day and schedule it in to make it happen. Switching off for 15-20 minutes has been shown to help reduce stress levels, restore a sense of how much time you really have available, and keeps you 'present' to what's happening right now;
- Switch off your phone and keep it out of sight when having a face-to-face conversation or in a meeting. This has been shown to strengthen social connection and trust;
- Develop hobbies and interests that don't involve technology;
- Get outside to fully engage with nature using all your senses.
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