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When Technology Addiction Takes Over Your Life

Are you a tangled mess of BlackBerrys, emails, PDAs, iPhones, laptops, and cell phones? Here’s how to untangle your life and find healthy balance.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jenn Hoffman, Phoenix-based CEO of The J Brand Group, should have been enjoying a relaxing vacation on the Cote d'Azur. Sipping champagne and nibbling on cheese at the posh Louis XV restaurant, she was eagerly awaiting her entree, a poached Breton lobster. But then, poised next to the breadbasket, her BlackBerry Pearl came to life, and so did her technology addiction.

She lunged for it and swiftly pecked out a response to my request for BlackBerry anecdotes: "I'm so addicted to this device that I stopped mid-bite to rush to send this message. My dining partners are staring at me with contempt as I write this."

"My BlackBerry runs my life," Hoffman says. She's got a 24/7 technology habit, even checking messages from the bathroom, a Whistler ski lift, and a pool raft at L.A.'s Chateau Marmont hotel. Her boyfriend calls her laptop, which she brings to bed every night, "the other man."

Hoffman is not alone in dealing with technology overload. Email, PDAs, iPhones, laptops, and cell phones dominate our modern world. Our uber-connected lives have made us virtually available at any time, at any place -- the movies, the golf course, traffic lights, you name it. Here, we look at simple strategies to reduce the electronic overload and regain a healthy balance of life, work, and technology.

(Are you addicted to technology? What electronic toy can you just not live without? Compare with others on WebMD's Health Cafe board.)

The Paradox of Modern Life

We are now more wired than ever. Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half of the study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour. An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of PDA users check every single time an email arrives and 83 percent check email every day on vacation.

"I live and die in email," says IT manager Christopher Post in Camp Hill, Pa. "I found a PDA to be a double-edged sword. It can certainly allow you to do a lot more in any given day, but there is certainly a cost associated. I tend to lose out on a lot of other experiences, like when I should be paying attention at the dinner table."

You've got to take back control, says Edward Hallowell, MD, author of CrazyBusy: Overbooked, Overstretched, and About to Snap! "The great thing about modern life is you can do so much," he says, "and the curse of modern life is you can do so much."

It's the new epidemic, Hallowell says. "People joke about being crazy busy. Sometimes they brag about it, like being busy is a status symbol. But they don't realize that it's as harmful for them as obesity or cigarette smoking."

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