True Confessions of a Tech Guy
Can I share a secret with you?
I’ve been silently dealing with tech burnout for years now. Quite a thing to admit, I know — for someone who makes his living working with technology.
The truth is, though, I didn’t even admit it to myself until just recently. I was trying to ignore it, hoping it was just a passing phase… figuring I would eventually snap out of it. But instead, it got worse.
It got to the point that I dreaded even opening up my laptop to check email. But I had to, and old habits die hard. So I went about my business without acknowledging that something inside me was screaming, “Don’t do it!”
I would sit down with people day-in and day-out, helping them with tech issues, while ignoring my own. I suppose that’s kind of a modern version of the Shoemaker’s Children scenario. Though, it wasn’t my children who were suffering. It was me.
In fact, after work, I would inevitably have to solve some tech problem that my kids were having at home too. I felt like a lumberjack coming home from a 12-hour work day, tired to the bone, and then having to chop wood for the stove.
Funny thing is, I would have loved to come home and chop wood… rather than troubleshoot the Wi-Fi or help reset passwords. I would daydream about hiking into the mountains by myself, without a single electronic device.
Ironically, you would probably have looked at me and guessed just the opposite. You would have figured that I thrived on trying out new gadgets and couldn’t wait for the release of software updates. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Because, in a way, I was also addicted.
That’s the way tech burnout starts. At first, you are excited about new technologies and wonder what kind of things will be in our grasp tomorrow that we couldn’t do today. Anticipation builds for the next Apple or Google announcement — like waiting for the release of the next Harry Potter book or movie.
But at some point, subconsciously, you start to wonder what all of this is doing to you. Not just the hype, but the actual technology itself. You begin to realize that you are doing things, not out of enjoyment or betterment, but out of necessity.
You can’t stop. Because if you did, you would let people down. You have to have your phone next to you at all times, otherwise, you might miss a call, or a text, or an email, or a Tweet, or a Facebook update…
You’ve replaced functional, tried-and-true devices, like your watch or your calculator, with a device that costs way more but don’t last as long. And now you’re married to the thing. You’re invested. You have to somehow justify that it was worth the $500… $800… Even $1000+ that you spent, plus the $50/mo service you need in order to actually use it.
And so you keep it by your side and use it every single chance you get. Otherwise, you would have to admit to yourself (and maybe your spouse) that you wasted your money.
But you didn’t waste your money, right? Just look at what you can do today that you couldn’t do before:
· You can make a phone call from/to nearly anywhere in the world.
· You can type messages to any of your friends/family instantly.
· You can keep track of your schedule, calendar, tasks, and such, on-the-go.
· You can keep notes & entire lectures or meetings with the audio record app.
· You can play games when you are bored or need a diversion.
· You can take high-quality pictures, edit and share them instantly.
· You can keep in touch with work, even review documents remotely.
· You can watch movies in your hotel room, without Pay-per-view.
This list could go on and on, but you get the idea.
While all of these are great things, they are conveniences, not necessities. And yet, since these days everyone is expected to have a smartphone of some kind, our expectations have made them feel like necessity.
“Why didn’t you get back to me?”
You can’t say, “I didn’t feel like it,” so you come up with some excuse…
“Oh, I’m sorry, my phone battery must have died.”
Because, guess what? The “always on” lifestyle is not all it’s cracked up to be. We don’t always want to talk/text/message anyone at any time of the day or night. (Nobody wants to be awakened at 3:00 in the morning by a “butt-dial.”) And yet those are the kinds of expectations we have to deal with every day now.
And it can get pretty overwhelming dealing with all of the different apps and options you have…
“Can I Skype you?”
“No, I don’t have Skype. How about Face Time?”
“Never mind, I’ll just set up a Zoom.”
We are not just dealing with sensory-overload, but option-overload… and every one of those “options” has its own learning curve. It’s taxing our brains, and not in a good way.
Now, every time I pick up my phone, I have to stop and think about what it was I was going to do, and which app I need, and which screen it was on, etc., while always wondering, “is my privacy being violated by using this app?”
And while I’m making my way through that man-made labyrinth of menus, there is a very good chance that I will get distracted by something the pops up, slides down, dings, etc.
Even Big Tech companies are starting to acknowledge the monster that they have created. Their solution: create a new app or mode to solve problems with distraction.
Okay, so now that’s one more thing I have to learn and try to make it work properly. And if it doesn’t work properly… Well, then it must be operator-error. After all, they did their job. They delivered on their promise, so if I can’t get it working, it’s my problem. At least, that’s how we are made to feel.
Honestly, I’m getting tired of it. Very, very tired of it.
The expectations on our lives now that we have so gleefully accepted (by paying way-too-much for a glorified pocket calculator) are not healthy. We know this, but now feel that we have no choice.
As I write this, Apple Inc. has just passed the Trillion-dollar valuation. Want to know what put them there? It wasn’t their computer sales or software. It was a revolutionary new phone that you can unlock with your face, (and has no shortage of glitches) — starting at $1000!
How did it come to this? Why are we accepting this as okay? We hadn’t even had a chance to utilize all of the capabilities and options of our old phones, and now Companies like Apple and Samsung are pushing us to buy something for way more than it is worth.
Why do we do it? Because, in our minds now, these things have gone from “nice to have” to necessity. But we still feel we need to justify that, so the cycle continues and expectations continue to grow.
The net effect of all this is that — contrary to all of the bright, happy ads that purport to make our lives better — the accelerated upgrade cycle is adding magnitudes of undue stress to our lives, and people are getting burnt out on tech. It’s been a slow-boil process up to this point, but whether you want to admit it or not, we’re there.
If you are not to the burnout stage yet, just wait. You will be… sooner than you think.
But hey! Good news… There’s an app for that!
If you liked this article, you can read Part 2 by following this link.