Invasion of the zombies

I’m in a love-hate relationship.

No, it’s nothing to do with my husband. It’s with my iPhone.

One of the best and the worst things was finally upgrading to a phone that could receive emails. So convenient. Maybe too convenient.

As a mindfulness practitioner, I’m keenly aware of the challenges created by the virtual reality of our minds, where we ruminate on the past or worry about the future.

Our minds can keep us from experiencing the present moment. In this virtual reality of our minds, so much of life’s richness is missed, often fuelling the fight-or-flight response.

In today’s society the growing dependency on our digital devices adds fuel to the fire.

It’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex of technology’s virtual world. I know, because it started happening to me.

My awareness of the growing epidemic of cell phone addiction heightened when I viewed a photo series, Removed, by Eric Pickersgill. 

Pickersgill captured photos of people in modern life, consumed by their devices, except the devices were removed from their hands; an image all too familiar becomes odd and absurd.

This photo series was a cold slap of reality. The stark truth of what’s happening caused me to wake up and notice the isolating and intrusive nature of life married to digital devices.

I realized how I was also becoming addicted to my phone, and began noticing the effect in today’s world. It causes me concern.

During a recent visit to beautiful Coal Harbour in Vancouver, more than 75 per cent of the people I saw were either looking at, or looking through their device. Families and friends standing together, each totally alone as they were absorbed in the virtual reality of technology.

I call it the invasion of the zombies.

As one of my mindfulness students mused, “Beware the cyber-toothed tiger!”

There are many health costs arising from cellphone addiction.

Technology is good, but overusing it creates challenges for the cognitive function of our brains.

It may be startling to realize the abilities of our brains are changing due to the increased use of technology.

We are harming our ability to remember and to solve simple problems on our own.

How many phone numbers are you able to remember?

Are you able to quickly calculate sale prices in your head?

Our spatial awareness is being altered through the use of Google Maps.

Use it or lose it.

As I stood with a young clerk in a store recently, she was shocked when I quickly calculated the final price of an item when the sale price was 20 per cent off. She was impressed.  I’m concerned she was impressed.

Digital dementia, a term coined by Manfred Spitzer in 2012, is the breakdown of the brain’s ability to think. Poor short-term memory, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are only a few of the consequences of the overuse of technology.

I grew concerned when I noticed my tendency to reach for my device to simply pass the time. I frequently see people eating out, absorbed in scrolling on their device. Do they even notice what they’ve eaten?

Through the holiday season, I paid attention to the people who were sitting at the mall waiting. Most were glued to their phones, and only very few just sat and engaged in the age-old delight of people watching.

Injuries from distracted walking are on the rise. I’ve had people walk straight into me on the streets with their eyes transfixed by their screens. Thank goodness I’m not a car.

Distracted people are increasingly walking into traffic, unaware of their surroundings. It’s becoming such a problem some municipalities are now banning texting while walking. It’s hard to believe.

What to do?

Awareness is curative.

Utilizing the weekly screen time report on your phone is a great way to draw attention to your use of your device. Being mindful of your usage can lead to positive change.

Notice your own habits with technology. As we say in mindfulness, be gentle, patient and kind in your noticing. Be curious. Self-criticism is not helpful, but gaining insight into your own ways is a place to begin.

Next week, I will continue the conversation. I’ll share the consequences of digital over-use and some strategies for using technology without technology using you.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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