Technology + Equanimity = Digital Well Being
I'm Megan Barnes Zesati, psychotherapist, clinical consultant and founder of Tequanimity. I believe that mindfulness of what gets your attention online--your digital habits and your relationship with your phone--opens a transformative path to regaining emotional balance, mental focus and true freedom in real life.
In 2017, I stepped away from my Downtown Austin Therapy practice of ten years to take a sabbatical year abroad with my husband and kids. The year away was a great adventure but at the time I left, I was stressed and overwhelmed and didn't know why. All I knew was that I craved time to think, and time to think felt like a luxury. I craved more quality time with my family--the kind of time where I did not also feel distracted, exhausted, irritable and time-poor. Sound familiar?
The sabbatical allowed me to look back at the busy life I had left that I left behind with a curiosity about how technology had played a role in my loss of balance. I saw that my smartphone promised ease, efficiency and connection, but often left me feeling anxious, distracted, and disconnected from others. Over the course of my sabbatical year, I learned how to use my phone as a tool again. This simple change gave me the feeling of slow-time again and opened a forgotten ease of relationship within myself and others.
As the sabbatical year concluded and I returned to Austin, I was determined not to lose my inner balance--my equanimity. But I was seriously challenged by the nonstop noise and distraction of the the real world--both on and offline. I began to think of my relationship with my smartphone as a complicated relationship--one with the capacity to be empowering or deeply unhealthy. I devoured the emerging research on how our digital habits change our brains, emotions, relationships, societies, schools, industries, communities and families. With this research, I began to see the forest from the trees. I stopped feeling inadequate, weak-willed, fearful and guilty about my use and found some compassion. I set clear intentions for my phone use and focused on meaningful interactions and healthy boundaries with it, just as I would with any other relationship in need of some healthy repair.
I now understand that tech-life balance is not something that can be achieved with the proper settings, screen time limits or parental controls, but something much more dynamic and complex. Tech-life balance is a healthy tension that we live into--one that requires an engaged and balanced mind to navigate. It's tricky to maintain an equanimous mind because your interactions with your phone shape and influence how your mind works, as you use it. With every moment spent online, you are offered a mind-boggling abundance of information, entertainment, and distractions. Too many inputs create mental and emotional paralysis--information overload. An overwhelmed mind goes with the default setting, the next up video or another swipe of the endless scroll.
Is the time you spend on your phone time well spent? Your time spent with your technologies should be time that amplifies the quality and meaning of your life. Time well spent with tech is not always productive, frictionless and efficient. A satisfying life is not a robotic life. Time well spent is different for each of us, but I can help you clarify and define what it is for you. And I can help you can regain balance. Technology is only a tool, but you must be clear about how you want and need to use this tool. When you are not clear about your purpose in using tech, it begins to use you. When you lose intention and awareness about your relationship with your phone, you will quickly lose both time and emotional balance.
Our heavy use and reliance on technology is a fact of modern life. Our choice is not if but how we engage in the digital world. I invite you to dive into the topic of tech-life balance without judgment of yourself or others, because we all struggle to find this balance in real life, and we need to be talking about it more. Shall we begin?