Technology: Tool or tether?

When I first started working in hospice, I was the pediatric nurse for the agency, which required traveling throughout a very large county to see all the kids.

Since that was a loooong time ago, we didn’t even have cell phones then.

Which meant that I, like everyone else who worked in the field, carried a pager instead.

And lots of quarters to deposit in the pay phones that were well-known along our routes.

Eventually, everyone was given a cell phone—and I still remember my thrill when I moved into management, which meant a Blackberry, too.

Since I was so eager to be able to work from anywhere, I couldn’t believe I could actually check my email on the same device as my phone.

By that time, everyone had moved from paper to laptops—and eventually added wireless cards, which provided the ability to connect from most anywhere.

For me, that meant I could be even more connected than ever, which tickled me pink.

Working from anywhere

When I decided to leave hospice to work in my own business, the ability to work from anywhere became more important than ever.

That was especially true in the years that Mom’s health began to decline and she needed more support.

By then I had a smartphone, too, so when I was waiting for her at the beauty shop, doctor’s office, or even alongside the therapy pool—I often had my nose in a device so I could get my work done.

I became self-employed over 11 years ago, and I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am that I’ve been able to work from anywhere all these years.

Being able to use technology in this way meant that I could be at home with Mom—and it’s given Dave and me the ability to live with a freedom that many would enjoy.

An insidious creep of dependence

But as mobile technology has advanced over the years, I believe there’s been an insidious creep of dependence that may not always be a good thing.

When smartphones first came out, they were novelties instead of the supposed essentials they’ve become today.

There weren’t nearly as many bells and whistles then—nor the security and privacy risks that accompany them.

And Big Tech didn’t have nearly the power that it increasingly applies.

Sure, it’s wonderful to have the world at your fingertips in your pocket or purse.

But what price do we pay for that type of convenience and accessibility?

What freedoms do we give up by being constantly tethered to tech?

What personal information are we dishing up on a platter for others to use and sell on a whim?

Disconnected freedom

In my recent journey to step away from continual connectedness, I’m finding that the freedoms I thought technology afforded me may have been restrictions, instead.

After all, distraction is draining—but focus is freeing.

Streaming is signal-dependent—while the oldies-but-goodies are tried-and-true friends.

Scrolling can be addictive—but a good book a relaxing escape.

Digital noise a familiar companion—but the stillness of quiet a soothing balm.

The negative effects of mobile-tech dependence are evidenced in various ways—including the fact that people pay perfectly good money for “digital detox” retreats instead of just turning off their smartphones now and then.

Yes, technology can provide freedom in many ways—unless the need for continual connectedness ends up taking us hostage, instead.

Used most effectively, technology should be a tool, not a tether.

Serving us—instead of the other way around.

This post is adapted from Sue’s Perspectives column in the latest edition of The Empowered Traveler™ Newsletter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can do that here: Subscribe to Sue’s newsletter.

Sue Montgomery is a Christian writer/content creator who's also been a hospice nurse, family caregiver, health coach, and professional organizer. Now she's helping Baby Boomers like herself embrace the Boomer Continuum™ of agile caregiving, graceful aging, and peaceful dying—with Christian faith and simplicity to focus on what matters most.
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